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Philosophy Program and The Thinking Animals Initiative Present

Monday, April 9, 2018
Comments on a Contested Comparison: Animals and Race
Olin, Room 203
5:30 pm
Alice Crary, Professor of Philosophy
New School/Oxford
Many animal activists have, over the past four decades, compared the utterly callous treatment of animals in modern industrial societies to the treatment of the Nazis’ human victims in the Holocaust. The activists who avail themselves of these comparisons do so with an eye to impressing on us that the utterly callous “processing” of billions of animals in settings such as, e.g., confined feeding operations, industrial slaughterhouses, aquafarms, and laboratories resembles the Holocaust in its momentousness and horror. This lecture contains a nuanced discussion of this strategy, starting with a criticism of animal activists’ use of Holocaust likenesses that is grounded in an account of ways in which invidious comparisons to animals have historically figured in specific methods of racist domination. The lecture’s main negative claim is that, in light of the relevant histories and their contemporary aftereffects, the strategy of referring to the Holocaust to expose wrongs to animals is objectionable. The positive emphasis of the lecture is on showing that it doesn’t follow that we need to abandon the concerns that originally led some animal activists to invoke the idea of the Holocaust and, further, that we can understand the impulse driving these individuals (even if we don’t agree with them) if we follow up on the work of authors who try to impart a sense of the kinds of challenges we face in trying to bring the worldly lives of animals, as well as the wrongs inflicted on them by human beings, into focus in a manner relevant to ethics. 

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Time: 5:30 pm

Location: Olin, Room 203