Against Interspecies Politics (Angie Pepper and Rich Healey)

    Activity: Talk or presentation for an academic audienceOral presentation for an academic audience


    Every aspect of domesticated animals’ lives is governed by human social and political practices. Advocates of animal rights all agree that justice requires extensive reform of these practices if we are to justify having relationships with domesticated animals. How exactly, though, ought we to reform our social and political world? What would it take to justify keeping animals as companions or engaging them in labour, for example? In this paper, we discuss and reject the two strategies that have come to dominate contemporary animal rights theory: wardship and citizenship.

    The wardship strategy holds that we can legitimate our relationships with domesticated animals by ensuring that our practices respect their interests and are appropriately represented in political decision-making. Following Sue Donaldson and Will Kymlicka, we argue that this strategy fails because it “risks excessive paternalism” and “leads to oppressive terms of cooperation” (2015 pp. 326-327). We then turn our attention to the citizenship strategy, which argues that justice requires us to extend political membership to all domesticated animals. This entails an expansion of the political community that sees domesticated animals as full and equal members of the demos who have a right to participate in collective self-government. The idea is that by extending membership and engaging in interspecies politics we can justify and legitimise the terms of our association with domesticated animals. Against this second strategy, we argue that a genuine interspecies political community is not possible, and that citizenship does not avoid the problems associated with wardship. More specifically, we argue that the models of political justification and legitimation that the citizenship view appeals to are not available between species and so we cannot hope to justify our treatment and regulation of domesticated animals by extending political membership to them. We conclude by suggesting that if we are unable to justify the exercise of coercive political power over animals, then continuing to bring them into existence to serve as our companions or labourers is morally and politically illegitimate.

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    Period8 Sept 2022
    Event titleManchester Political Theory Workshops (MANCEPT 2022): Animal Politics: Utopian and Dystopian Visions of Multispecies Society
    Event typeConference
    LocationManchester, United KingdomShow on map
    Degree of RecognitionInternational