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Animal Oppression and Human Violence: Domesecration, Capitalism, and Global Conflict, by David A. Nibert

Animal Oppression and Human Violence: Domesecration, Capitalism, and Global Conflict, by David A. Nibert

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Jared Diamond and other leading scholars have argued that the domestication of animals for food, labor, and tools of war has advanced the development of human society. But by comparing practices of animal exploitation for food and resources in different societies over time, David A. Nibert reaches a strikingly different conclusion. He finds in the domestication of animals, which he renames “domesecration,” a perversion of human ethics, the development of large-scale acts of violence, disastrous patterns of destruction, and growth-curbing epidemics of infectious disease.

Nibert centers his study on nomadic pastoralism and the development of commercial ranching, a practice that has been largely controlled by elite groups and expanded with the rise of capitalism. Beginning with the pastoral societies of the Eurasian steppe and continuing through to the exportation of Western, meat-centered eating habits throughout today’s world, Nibert connects the domesecration of animals to violence, invasion, extermination, displacement, enslavement, repression, pandemic chronic disease, and hunger. In his view, conquest and subjugation were the results of the need to appropriate land and water to maintain large groups of animals, and the gross amassing of military power has its roots in the economic benefits of the exploitation, exchange, and sale of animals. Deadly zoonotic diseases, Nibert shows, have accompanied violent developments throughout history, laying waste to whole cities, societies, and civilizations. His most powerful insight situates the domesecration of animals as a precondition for the oppression of human populations, particularly indigenous peoples, an injustice impossible to rectify while the material interests of the elite are inextricably linked to the exploitation of animals.

Nibert links domesecration to some of the most critical issues facing the world today, including the depletion of fresh water, topsoil, and oil reserves; global warming; and world hunger, and he reviews the U.S. government’s military response to the inevitable crises of an overheated, hungry, resource-depleted world. Most animal-advocacy campaigns reinforce current oppressive practices, Nibert argues. Instead, he suggests reforms that challenge the legitimacy of both domesecration and capitalism.
Jared Diamond and other leading scholars have argued that the domestication of animals for food, labor, and tools of war has advanced the development of human society. But by comparing practices of animal exploitation for food and resources in different societies over time, David A. Nibert reaches a strikingly different conclusion. He finds in the domestication of animals, which he renames “domesecration,” a perversion of human ethics, the development of large-scale acts of violence, disastrous patterns of destruction, and growth-curbing epidemics of infectious disease.

Nibert centers his study on nomadic pastoralism and the development of commercial ranching, a practice that has been largely controlled by elite groups and expanded with the rise of capitalism. Beginning with the pastoral societies of the Eurasian steppe and continuing through to the exportation of Western, meat-centered eating habits throughout today’s world, Nibert connects the domesecration of animals to violence, invasion, extermination, displacement, enslavement, repression, pandemic chronic disease, and hunger. In his view, conquest and subjugation were the results of the need to appropriate land and water to maintain large groups of animals, and the gross amassing of military power has its roots in the economic benefits of the exploitation, exchange, and sale of animals. Deadly zoonotic diseases, Nibert shows, have accompanied violent developments throughout history, laying waste to whole cities, societies, and civilizations. His most powerful insight situates the domesecration of animals as a precondition for the oppression of human populations, particularly indigenous peoples, an injustice impossible to rectify while the material interests of the elite are inextricably linked to the exploitation of animals.

Nibert links domesecration to some of the most critical issues facing the world today, including the depletion of fresh water, topsoil, and oil reserves; global warming; and world hunger, and he reviews the U.S. government’s military response to the inevitable crises of an overheated, hungry, resource-depleted world. Most animal-advocacy campaigns reinforce current oppressive practices, Nibert argues. Instead, he suggests reforms that challenge the legitimacy of both domesecration and capitalism.

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Published by: Columbia University Press on Apr 26, 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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