'Domestication and the Problem of Human Tyranny'

Activity: Talk or presentation for an academic audienceInvited talk for an academic audience


The practices and processes of domestication involve humans exercising extensive social and political power over animals. These exercises of power, like all exercises of power, stand in need of legitimation. Contrary to prevailing popular and philosophical views, we are sceptical that the power exercised over domesticated animals is or can be made legitimate. Our overall aims in this paper are to articulate some of the main reasons for this scepticism and begin exploring the implications of this claim. First, we argue that domestication involves the routine violation of animals’ interests in self-determination. Second, we show that domesticated human-nonhuman animal relationships are inherently relationships of asymmetrical power, dependency, and vulnerability. This fact makes it especially difficult to justify creating such relationships. Finally, we argue that we cannot justify these relationships by extending political membership to domesticated animals. Since nonhuman animals cannot take up the internal perspective of being a member of our political community, we cannot legitimate our exercise of power over them by extending this status to them. Ultimately, we suggest that sentient animals are entitled to more and better than domestication allows.

Estimated audience numbers (if applicable)

Period28 Feb 2023
Event titleThe Sheffield Animal Studies Research Centre Research Seminar
Event typeSeminar
LocationSheffield, United KingdomShow on map


  • pets
  • domestication
  • self-determination
  • animal rights
  • power
  • tyranny
  • legitimacy