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THE LIES THAT BLIND: The moral atrocity of factory farming and why we must not look away

People don’t like thinking about it, and they don’t want to talk about it even though they kind of know at some level that there’s something bad that goes on or something horrible with animal agriculture.

CURRENT AFFAIRS: Marina Bolotnikova is a journalist who specializes in animal welfare and animal agriculture. In addition to Current Affairs, she has written for the Intercept, the Guardian, and Vox. She came on the Current Affairs podcast to talk to editor-in-chief Nathan J. Robinson about two articles she wrote for us. One was about the importance of direct action to the animal liberation movement. Most recently, she wrote about how the factory farming industry has gone from openly admitting that they view animals as profit-maximizing machines to pretending to care about being “humane.” This interview has been edited and condensed for grammar and clarity…

ROBINSON: It’s very hard to think about and confront the reality of what is done on a mass scale to sentient creatures every day in this country and around the world. And it’s easy to try to avoid it. People don’t like thinking about it, and they don’t want to talk about it even though they kind of know at some level that there’s something bad that goes on or something horrible with animal agriculture. But something happens where, when you do confront it, instead of drawing further away, you decide you’re going to go closer, and you’re going to try to find the truth. Once you do that, it makes it difficult to go back to looking away. When you start to peel back the layers of what is done, you realize that there is a deep horror that is going on all the time. I think it becomes hard to justify to yourself not working on exposing this.

BOLOTNIKOVA: I think that’s very true. It’s really under-covered. This is kind of perverse, but it means it’s not that difficult to distinguish yourself in the field. I certainly wish I had more competition and that there were more people interested in factory farming from the perspective of the animals. There is more interest in it from a climate perspective…

ROBINSON: You describe how the system of factory farming is kind of like a fascist industry. I’ve written about Holocaust comparisons, which I think everyone needs to be careful of; it’s easy for them to be offensive. But we see the same tendency to ignore the suffering of those who have been deemed not to matter. And we also see the methods of industrial killing. The system operates so that the weakest are just trampled upon and killed and treated as having no value except to the degree that their lives are useful for those who exploit them. Factory farming is like that kind of system perfected.

BOLOTNIKOVA: Yes. I think it absolutely is a fascist industry. And I think I took this idea from a philosopher named John Sanbonmatsu. He’s a friend of mine and a very smart critical animal studies scholar. I think I sent you one of his books. It’s a collection called Critical Theory and Animal Liberation. It’s a great collection. It was really influential to me. In the introduction, he talks about this idea that our relationship with non-human animals is a kind of fascism. It’s violent. It has its own justification. And it really resonated with me much more than this kind of bloodless animal welfare/animal rights philosophy that you read. I don’t want to say anything negative about anyone working in that space, but it’s like, Let’s talk about animals as though they’re just inputs for pleasure and pain, utility or whatever. Fascism is a great model for understanding animal agriculture and animal exploitation more broadly. You know, if someone’s talking about animal suffering, or factory farming on Twitter or in real life, someone will just laugh or be like, “bacon.” That’s an example, right? You don’t need reasons or real arguments or any kind of reasonable discourse. It’s just violence and domination that justifies itself.

Recently I read David Wallace-Wells’ The Uninhabitable Earth. One of the things he says early in the book is, I’m never going to be vegan. If you’re at the top of the food chain, you should flaunt it. That’s almost verbatim what he said. And that’s another example of what I mean. It’s domination justifying itself. Might makes right. SOURCE…


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