Animal Oppression and Human Violence

Animal Oppression and Human Violence: Domesecration, Capitalism, and Global Conflict

David A. Nibert
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/nibe15188
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    Animal Oppression and Human Violence
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-52551-0
    Subjects: Philosophy, History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-8)

    In 1896, Frank Wilson Blackmar, who later would become president of the American Sociological Association, wrote:

    Thedomesticationof animals led to a great improvement in the race. It gave an increased food supply throughmilkand the flesh of animals. . . . One after another animals have rendered service toman. They are used for food or clothing, or to carry burdens and draw loads. The advantage of theirdomesticationcannot be too greatly estimated.¹

    A year earlier, the Harvard professor of paleontology and geology Nathaniel Southgate Shaler wrote similarly:

    In the group of continents termed the old...

  5. CHAPTER ONE NOMADIC PASTORALISM, RANCHING, AND VIOLENCE
    (pp. 9-42)

    On December 8, 1237, the city of Riazan, some 125 miles southeast of Moscow, came under siege by 120,000 Mongol warriors. Mongol engineers and forced laborers surrounded the fortified city with a wooden palisade to prevent anyone from escaping and to provide cover for archers and artillery. The residents of the city watched in terror as the invaders completed the construction of the fence in nine days. On the tenth day, the bombardment began. On December 21, after five days of catapulting rocks and raining arrows on the populace, the Mongols stormed the city with scaling ladders, battering rams, and...

  6. CHAPTER TWO DOMESECRATION AND THE AMERICAS
    (pp. 43-69)

    Centuries before the European colonization of the Americas, tens of thousands of people lived on several of the Canary Islands, off the northwestern coast of Africa. The inhabitants of the islands, the Guanches, had lived in relative isolation for hundreds of years and survived on beans, peas, barley, wheat, and domesecrated goats and pigs. Little is known of these people except that they struggled against invasions by the French, Portuguese, and Spanish in the early fifteenth century. In the last quarter of the fifteenth century, Spanish elites became relentless in their quest for control of the Canaries, a region where...

  7. CHAPTER THREE RANCHING AND VIOLENCE IN NORTH AMERICA
    (pp. 70-91)

    Much as Christopher Columbus’s efforts to establish a beachhead in the Caribbean remained precarious until the use of enslaved cows and other animals made the conquest possible, so it was with the European invasion of North America. Thirty years after the Roanoke colony disappeared in 1607, the struggling colonizers at Jamestown experienced famine and significant loss of life. By 1625, some 4,800 of the six thousand who arrived since 1607 had perished from malnutrition.¹

    In “New England,” as in “New Spain,” European investors became aware of the need to send domesecrated animals to support successful colonization. And, again as for...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR DOMESECRATION IN THE WESTERN PLAINS
    (pp. 92-125)

    In 1821, James Taylor White and his family migrated from Louisiana to the Mexican province of Texas with a small group of domesecrated cows. Ten years later, he had three thousand cows under his control, and by 1836 he was the wealthiest person in the province. Many ranchers, like James Taylor White, “utilizedslave cowboysto runcattleandhogson the coastal prairie.”¹ Near the end of his life in 1850, he controlled more than fifty thousand acres of land and had deposits of more than $150,000 in New Orleans banks from the sale of cows.² White was the...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE CAPITALIST COLONIALISM AND RANCHING VIOLENCE
    (pp. 126-170)

    Before the British elite began their violent and destructive colonization of distant parts of the globe, they first began closer to home. The growth of capitalism in Britain and that nation’s emergence as a major world power were rooted in the expropriation of land for ranching operations and the exploitation of labor in Ireland and Scotland. The oppression of Ireland began when British “cavalry” forces, including mounted archers, led an invasion there in the twelfth century; soon after, the monarch began giving British aristocrats vast areas of expropriated lands. Although the new landlords rented out small tracts of land back...

  10. CHAPTER SIX SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF THE “HAMBURGER” CULTURE
    (pp. 171-195)

    The state-supported expropriation of nearly half of Mexico, the “virtual extermination of the buffalo and the destruction or control of the remainingIndianpopulation”¹ were critical to the profitable expansion of U.S. capitalism in the nineteenth century. Racism legitimated the war with Mexico, the repression of Native Americans, and much of the oppressive treatment of workers whose labor was essential for capital accumulation; speciesism rationalized the ruthless exploitation of other animals and the horrors of the slaughterhouse. The wealth generated from expropriating vast areas of land, exploiting workers, and killing millions upon millions of animals created growing numbers and types...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN THE “HAMBURGER” CULTURE AND LATIN AMERICA
    (pp. 196-222)

    In the late 1950s, the U.S. restaurant industry, especially companies selling large numbers of “hamburgers,” began to search for stable and cheap supplies of “ground beef.” “Beef” imports “began in earnest in the 1960s, when the emphasis placed by U.S.cattlemenon higher-profit grain-fedbeef” created “a shortage of the cheapcutsused inhamburgersand processedbeefproducts.”¹ It was only natural for eyes to turn to Latin America.

    Over the course of the twentieth century in much of Latin America, close bonds remained between powerful ranchers and business and political elites, and participation in commercial ranching continued to...

  12. CHAPTER EIGHT DOMESECRATION AND IMPENDING CATASTROPHE
    (pp. 223-258)

    The much-touted notion that a “natural partnership” between humans and “domesticated” animals promoted the advancement and well-being of human society is an ideological construct that supports the status quo—and it largely masks the reality of a history deeply steeped in violence and deprivation. While specific circumstances varied from case to case, the exploitation of large groups of domesecrated animals throughout the centuries has resulted in deadly violence; displacement; enslavement or exploitation of the labor of the displaced; deaths from diseases brought on by domesecration, hunger, and malnutrition; impoverishment; marginalization; and, frequently, sexual exploitation. While the oppression of domesecrated animals...

  13. CHAPTER NINE NEW WELFARISM, VEGANISM, AND CAPITALISM
    (pp. 259-272)

    Through the haze of the ubiquitous “meat,” “dairy,” and “egg” advertisements, some people in the United States and Western Europe still have been able to learn about the treatment of domesecrated animals on factory farms. Many have changed their purchasing habits, opting for free-range chickens and cows, cage-free “eggs,” and other fare presented similarly as more “humanely” processed and healthier to eat. Indeed, many advocacy organizations for other animals have promoted—through corporate campaigns, legislation, and ballot initiatives—the more “humane” production of “meat,” “dairy,” and “eggs,” ostensibly as a step toward the eventual end of animal oppression. To the...

  14. NOTES
    (pp. 273-320)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 321-336)