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Rethinking Factory Farms: Old McDonald’s Had a What?

Rethinking Factory Farms: Old McDonald’s Had a What?

(p.147) 9 Rethinking Factory Farms: Old McDonald’s Had a What?
The Distressed Body
Drew Leder
University of Chicago Press

After surveying some of its cruelties, this chapter explores the cultural and philosophical foundations of factory farming. How did the traditional farm come to be reconfigured as something akin to an industrial factory? Modes of capitalist production play a role: Marx’s analysis of the fourfold alienation of labor can be applied to animal-laborers, who, for example are alienated from their “product” (which in many cases is their own body re-constructed to maximize meat production). Moreover, the harshness with which animals are treated often exceeds that directed toward human workers. At root is a cultural anthropocentrism that prohibits viewing animals as moral subjects, thereby removing ethical restraints. Ultimately, the modernist ways in which animals are treated as both like and unlike human workers are related to the rise of Cartesian mechanism. The very categories of “human” and “animal” are made over in the image of the “machine.” To understand, and hopefully to abolish, factory farms we need to rethink its foundational paradigms.

Keywords:   factory farming, industrial, capitalism, alienation, labor, Marx, anthropocentrism, animals, humans, machines

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