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‘THE WAR AGAINST ANIMALS’: Dinesh Wadiwel’s book asks us to think deeply about human exceptionalism

Most of our direct relations with animals, in industrial food systems, in experimental labs, in entertainment contexts, are arranged to systematically use orchestrated violence to achieve human benefit.

MARC BEKOFF: During the past few years, many people have asked me what I thought of Dr. Dinesh Wadiwel’s book ‘The War against Animals’ I finally had time to read it and realized that it is a major and deeply thoughtful contribution to the ever-growing field of anthrozoology, the study of human-animal relationships. Here, Dinesh answered a few questions about his landmark book and the use of words such as “war” and “violence” that some might find off-putting. However, although New Zealand has declared that nonhumans are sentient, they also have declared a violent “war on wildlife.” In Spain, where animals also have been declared to be sentient, bullfighting continues…

MB: What are some of the topics you weave into your book and what are some of your major messages?

DW: The main message is that today in many human societies, violence and domination are the mainstay relationship with most animals. This ‘war,’ as I describe it, has some peculiar and disturbing features. First, most of our direct relations with animals—in industrial food systems, in experimental labs, in entertainment contexts—are arranged to systematically use orchestrated violence to achieve human benefit. This is most apparent in contemporary animal agriculture, where industrialization and intensification mean that billions of animals are subject to forced reproduction, lifetime close confinement, strict controls over movement, diet, social relations, and sexuality, and live short lives to produce food for humans. To orchestrate this mass violence on a global level, institutions, labor, and practices must be meticulously arranged on a large scale.

Second, an important facet of this mass violence is that we don’t see it. Partly, this is because many animal agriculture facilities are hidden from public view. And in many parts of the world, governments are actively working to deter activists and advocates from exposing animal agriculture facilities through so-called ‘ag-gag’ legislation.

However, we also cannot ‘see’ this violence because our knowledge systems prevent us from seeing it. In many cases, violence against animals is right in front of our eyes, but because of our own beliefs and ideologies we do not perceive that it is happening. We could describe this as ‘epistemic violence’—that is a kind of violence that exists in our knowledge systems that erase subjects and their experiences.

Let me provide an everyday example of this epistemic violence. In many parts of the world, butcher shop signage features stylized or cartoon images of smiling happy animals. Sometimes these images depict a cow, or pig, or chicken wearing a butcher’s apron; in some examples, the images will depict an animal gleefully cutting their own bodies with a knife. In my view, these sorts of images are a useful summary of the epistemic violence we carry out against animals. Our knowledge systems make it seem that animals are indifferent to the violence we expose them to. Worryingly, in some cases, we actually imagine that animals like what we do to them. SOURCE…


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