Maneesha Dechka, “Juvenile Smokescreens: Softening the Harm of Zoos, Aquaria, and Prisons through (Human) Children” Chapter 13 in Lori Gruen & Justin Marceau (eds.), Carceral Logics: Human Incarceration and Animal Captivity (Cambridge University Press, 2022).

Abstract: This chapter explores how human children soften the abusive edge of carceral spaces. Prisons, immigration detention centres, and zoos and aquaria are institutions that attract sustained public scrutiny from prisoner rights, migrant rights, anti-racist, and animal rights movements. Among other things, critics contest the messaging that these institutions and their proponents use to assure the public of the need for confinement and the ethical acceptability of the conditions captive animals and humans experience. These discourses, depending on the specific institution, highlight the larger public “law and order” interests of safety and border control, but also “progressive” interests of rehabilitation, conservation, and education. In highlighting these latter “progressive” interests, carceral institutions seek to humanize themselves and their work to bolster their social credibility. This “humane-washing” occurs through long-standing rationales about rehabilitation for offenders in the prison context, and more recent rationales about the conservation of nature and conservation education in the zoo and aquarium context. It also, I will argue, occurs through a specific type of marshaling of the human child. I apply a multispecies lens to consider how the real and imagined human child in the zoo and aquaria context, and narratives about what is in the best interests of human children in the immigration and prison context, figure into characterizing such carceral institutions as legally and socially legitimate spaces.

Kelly Struthers Montford, “Animals in Prison: Collateral Damage and Commodities of 'Rehabilitation’” Chapter 15 in Lori Gruen & Justin Marceau (eds.), Carceral Logics: Human Incarceration and Animal Captivity (Cambridge University Press, 2022).

Abstract: Animal protection organizations and lawmakers continue to invest in carceral responses to animal cruelty. This chapter argues that carceral responses will fail to meaningfully address animal cruelty because prisons are not human-only spaces. Instead, prisons prescribe a multitude of human-animal relationships, some of which train prisoners for labour fields that are explicitly premised on cruelty against animals. The chapter focuses on relationships between prisoners and liminal animals (such as feral cats, pigeons, gulls, rabbits, rats, prairie dogs, and coyotes), farmed animals, and animals used in prison animal programs, such as wild horse and dog training programs. The human-animal relationships that structure the prison are also placed within the contexts of settler colonialism and enslavement that are inseparable from the making of race and species in the Americas.

Jessica Eisen, “Litigating Animal Captivity: Habeus Corpus in the Carceral State” Chapter 18 in Lori Gruen & Justin Marceau (eds.), Carceral Logics: Human Incarceration and Animal Captivity (Cambridge University Press, 2022).

Abstract: The writ of habeas corpus is a legal tool with a complex relationship to carceral practices. The writ has functioned both to liberate illegally-detained individuals and to affirm the validity of underlying systems of legally-authorized incarceration. The so-called “Great Writ of Liberty” has thus survived and even thrived in a number of contexts where liberty interests have been systematically denied. Advocacy surrounding the use of the writ on behalf of non-human animals in U.S. courts has, however, tended toward aspirational, sometimes bordering on fantastical, accounts of the writ’s achievements in human justice contexts.

This chapter will introduce a corrective to this superlative vision of habeas corpus, its achievements in human justice contexts, and its potential for animal liberation. This study will argue that one well-publicized advocacy approach, taken most notably by Steven Wise and the Nonhuman Rights Project, overstates the writ’s accomplishments, often relying on an incomplete account of the writ’s history to do so. In particular, this account of the writ’s successes tends to paint struggles against racial violence and inequality as complete, thus minimizing the import of urgent ongoing justice projects. Next, a historical corrective is offered, demonstrating how closer attention to the writ’s actual role in human carceral systems can enrich our understanding of the writ’s limits and potential. This account will emphasize that the writ of habeas corpus operates only to challenge illegal (rather than unjust) detention; that it operates only at the margins of legal confinement systems to contain rather than eliminate carceral practices; and that it therefore serves a role not only in challenging individual instances of confinement, but also in sustaining and validating ongoing carceral practices.

This more critical picture of habeas corpus, however, does not strip the writ of its potential as an advocacy tool for the interests of non-human animals. This chapter will argue that animal advocates might join other social justice movements in adopting a more ambivalent embrace of rights litigation. It is possible, often necessary, for advocates to turn to legal tools without adopting an uncritical posture toward law. Indeed, as with other ambivalent embraces of rights—including historical uses of habeas corpus—litigation is often a critical tool in bringing political attention to social injustices. This chapter will propose that the greatest potential offered by the writ of habeas corpus is a focus on liberty that invites advocacy spotlighting the experiences of animals living within human systems of violence and confinement. It is this prospect of exposing and exploring the harms of human domination of other species—not any fantastical account of the writ’s human achievements—that gives habeas corpus its most meaningful transformative potential.