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Nibert Introduction.pdf

Nibert Introduction.pdf

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Published by: Columbia University Press on Apr 26, 2013
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10/02/2013

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 In 1896, Frank Wilson Blackmar, who later would become president o theAmerican Sociological Association, wrote:The
domestication
o animals led to a great improvement in therace. It gave an increased ood supply through
milk
and the esh o animals. . . . One ater another animals have rendered service to
man
 . They are used or ood or clothing, or to carry burdens anddraw loads. The advantage o their
domestication
cannot be toogreatly estimated.
1
 A year earlier, the Harvard proessor o paleontology and geology Nathan-iel Southgate Shaler wrote similarly:In the group o continents termed the old world . . . there were manyspecies o larger mammals which were well ftted or
domestication
 ,the advance o social development went on rapidly. . . . It is hardlytoo much to say that civilization has intimately depended on thesubjugation o a great range o useul species. . . .The possession o 
domesticated
animals certainly did much tobreak up . . . [the] old brutal way o lie; it led to a higher sense o responsibility to the care o the household; it brought about system-atic agriculture; it developed the art o war; it laid the oundations o wealth and commerce, and so set
men
well upon their upward way.
2
 Such long-held views about the role o other animals in human civiliza-tion have been widely accepted as obvious and unassailable. However, asMichael Parenti observes, “the most insidious oppressions are those thatso insinuate themselves into the abric o our lives and into the recesseso our minds that we don’t even realize they are acting upon us.”
3
Thisbook oers a dierent point o view, one much neglected by academia. Thethesis o this book is that the practice o capturing and oppressing cows,sheep, pigs, horses, goats, and similar large, sociable animals or human
INTRODUCTION
 
2
INTRODUCTION
use did not, as Shaler put it, “set
men
well upon their upward way.” Rather,it
undermined
the development o a just and peaceul world. The harmsthat humans have done to other animals—
especially that harm generatedby pastoralist and ranching practices that have culminated in contemporary factory-farming practices
 —have been a precondition or and have engen-dered large-scale violence against and injury to devalued humans, par-ticularly indigenous people around the world.Over the past ten thousand years, human lives and those o other ani-mals have been shaped indelibly and tragically by the priorities and inter-ests o elite groups in their societies. Those customs and practices thatserve their interests include the much-touted process o “domestication”o other animals, rom which human civilization and advancement alleg-edly sprang. Cultural representations and even much scholarly discussionlong have mainly supported and preserved societal practices that servethe interests o the most powerul—and the practice o exploiting otheranimals is no exception.The perspective on human treatment o other animals promoted byBlackmar and Shaler once stood alongside similarly anachronistic racist,sexist, and other proclamations by scholars and social commentators.Such belies have been ameliorated somewhat over the years, changed bydecades o social-justice activism but also by the needs o the capitalistsystem. Proound institutionalized discrimination against women andpeople o color, or example, was inconsistent with increased proft takingand the expansion o capitalism.
4
But while the eventual prohibition o legalized human enslavement and some amelioration o sexist policiesand practices urthered the expansion o capitalism, the lucrative exploi-tation o other animals continues and today remains one o the mostproftable o industries. Not surprisingly, support or objectifcation andutilitarian use o other animals still is ubiquitous, well into the twenty-frst century. For instance, current history textbooks contain statementssuch as: “
Domesticated
animals, especially
cattle
 , yielded
meat
 ,
milk
 , and
hides
 . Food surpluses made it possible or people to do things other thanarming. Some people became artisans and made weapons and jewelrythat were traded with neighboring peoples.”
5
Such reexive pronounce-ments by scholars are commonplace.A relatively recent work that supported this benign view o “domesti-cation,” one rooted in the speciesist writings o scholars like Blackmarand Shaler, is Jared Diamond’s popular 1997 work
Guns, Germs, and Steel.

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