“Five times the money”: Everyday acts of commodification, consumption, and desire at the “poultry” auction

The lived realities of farmed animals as property, as capital, and as commodities are dependent in foundational ways on the human desires and cultures of consumption in which they are entangled. Settler-colonial and capitalist logics that render animals ownable capital shape the everyday relationships of harm to which animals are subjected in food production. This talk draws on original field research at a series of “poultry” auctions in the Pacific Northwestern United States where the routine sale of live chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, quails, game hens, and rabbits unfolds. Perhaps even more so than other farmed animal auctions “poultry” auctions are intensified sites of commodification and consumption of animals where legal regulations (or lack thereof) enable the ease with which this consumption occurs, and where the stakes for animals’ lives, relationships, and deaths can be better understood. In this talk, I bring stories from the auction yard together with an analysis of the everydayness with which animals are commodified and consumed to suggest alternative ways of conceptualizing and living with farmed animal species.  

This session will be presented by Kathryn Gillespie.


Towards an Animal-Friendly Democracy

Abstract: Defenders of the 'political turn' in animal ethics agree that animals must be represented within democratic decision-making processes. There are, however, deep disagreements about how to represent animals politically, and these disagreements rest in part on deeper disagreements about the very nature and value of democracy itself. Traditional mainstream theories of democracy have typically emphasized that democracy is tied to ideas of political community and political agency. Because animals have often been seen as incapable of participating in either political community or political agency, many theories of the animal political turn seek to articulate a conception of democracy that downplays questions of community and agency, and focuses instead simply on aggregating affected interests. I will argue that this is a mistake, both for animals and humans, and that an animal-friendly democracy must be responsive to diverse forms of community and agency. 

This session will be presented by Will Kymlicka.


Culture or Politics: Animal Welfare Crisis in China

Animal welfare in China has attracted much international attention. Scholars have often attributed its failure in environmental lawmaking to the country’s seemingly ubiquitous cultural tradition.  Animal Welfare in China: Culture, Politics and Crisis (Sydney University Press, 2021) takes a different approach. By introducing China’s legacy of nature conservation in ancient times, I question the cultural or the “clash of civilizations” approach. China today leads the world in animal productions in ways and scales that did not exist or ran counter to China’s moral values in ancient times. Therefore, an alternative approach is to look at the country’s prevailing politics that prioritizes a catch-up modernization strategy, an all-out drive to adopt Western production models and technology, and an aspiration to be an integral part of the capitalist world economy. China’s glaring and unprecedented animal welfare crisis on the factory farms, on the wildlife markets, and in all other animal-holding institutions is linked more closely with its chosen development strategy. By highlighting the strategy, I wonder if the cultural perspective helps understand or find solutions to animal welfare problems in non-Western societies.

This session will be presented by Peter Li.


Defining Carceral Animal Law, an Empirical Study of Carceral Animal Law, and Considering Paths Forward for Animals

In recent years, the efficacy of investing in prosecutions and convictions as a lever for social change has been substantially called into question. Advocates concerned with harms in areas as disparate as domestic violence, hate crimes, public order crimes, and animal protection have started to question whether from a civil rights perspective criminal interventions produce a positive outcome. This talk will focus on a different, but related question: Does carceral animal law help animals? It is impossible to arrive at anything  approaching analytic certainty on these points, and the talk will not claim any such certainty. But the original empirical research conducted for this project might give us reason for caution, even concern when it comes financial investments and public outreach devoted to policing and prosecution. After making the empirical case against most carceral approaches to animal law, the project ends with a call for a  research agenda aimed at exploring and developing alternatives. The point is not to cast blame or impugn motives. Rather, the project can take for granted the difficult history of animal law that led us to this point, and asks if American lawyers might learn from Canadian lawyers and engage in a new phase of law reform projects.

This session will be presented by Justin Marceau.


Keynote Panel: 
Property, Personhood, or Something New: Reimagining the Legal Status of Animals

The property status of nonhuman animals, and the desire to transform that status to some form of personhood, has been a mainstay of animal law scholarship for the last 25 years. The debate has usually assumed two options: that animals can be classified as either legal property, or legal persons. However, the time is ripe to ask whether there are more than two options and whether, even re-framed, this is a debate the animal law movement should continue to have.

This Keynote Panel, which follows the Scholars Track and kicks-off the 2021 Canadian Animal Law Conference, will put into conversation a range of leading lawyers and legal academics who have different views on this subject. Gary Francione argued influentially in his 1995 book Animals, Property and the Law that any kind of property status for animals will result in their rights being outweighed by human interests and they must have their moral personhood recognized. Steven Wise has been working with his group the Nonhuman Rights Project to establish legal personhood for nonhuman animals through a series of habeas corpus petitions for chimpanzee and elephant clients in New York and Connecticut since 2013. Maneesha Deckha argues in her 2021 book Animals as Legal Beings: Contesting Anthropocentric Legal Orders that personhood is too anthropocentric, and the legal status for nonhuman animals should be “being.” Angela Fernandez has argued that a “quasi-hood” understanding of both property and person will provide a workable legal concept for a larger number of nonhuman animals than personhood. Jessica Eisen’s work argues for a shift in focus away from abstract debates about “property” and “personhood” toward more concrete accounts of animals’ lives and relationships under human control.

The Keynote Panel will be moderated by Professor Doug Kysar.