Cripping Animal Ethics
By, Sunaura Taylor
This panel will explore intersections between disability studies and animal rights. Cripping Animal Ethics will focus on the many serious complications the disability and animal advocacy communities have faced in building mutual collaborations and alliances, while also showing how much these two fields have in common and how much they could challenge and support each other.
Philosopher Cary Wolfe has written, “Of the various contemporary fields of interdisciplinary cultural studies that have emerged…two of the most philosophically ambitious and ethically challenging…are animal studies and disability studies” (Learning From Temple Grandin, or, Animal Studies, Disability Studies, and Who Comes After the Subject ). This presentation argues that these two fields have an immense amount to offer each other.
Disability oppression and animal oppression are often rooted in similar paradigms –those of dependency, nature and normalcy. I argue that viewing animal oppression through a disability studies lens can add significant strength to the arguments for animal rights. This presentation will also show how nonhuman animals are affected by ableism and will examine the complex relationship between ableism and speciesism.
As an example of what disability studies can do for animals, this talk will narrow in on the debate over “humane meat.” Proponents of this issue use ableist paradigms of nature, normalcy and dependency to argue that animal oppression is justified. By viewing their arguments through a disability studies lens this presentation will show how problematic their conclusions are. I focus on issues of humane meat, not because it is a better example of the connections between disability and animal rights than in the broader animal rights conversation, but because it is one of the most prevalent arguments used to justify animal exploitation.
In closing, this presentation argues that disability studies has a responsibility to consider nonhuman animals within its framework to avoid contradicting many of its most basic concepts. I will conclude by asking what “cripping animal rights” and “cripping veganism” would look like.
Sunaura Taylor is a disabled artist, writer and activist. Through painting, printmaking, writing and other forms of political and artistic engagement her work intervenes with dominant historical narratives of disability and animal oppression. Taylor’s artworks have been exhibited at venues across the country, including the CUE Art Foundation, the Smithsonian Institution and the Berkeley Art Museum. She is the recipient of a Sacatar Foundation Fellowship, an Eisner Award, two Wynn Newhouse Awards, a Joan Mitchell Foundation MFA Grant, and an Animals and Culture Grant. Her written work has been printed in numerous edited collections as well as in publications such as the Monthly Review, Yes! Magazine, and Qui Parle. Taylor worked with philosopher Judith Butler on Astra Taylor’s film Examined Life (Zeitgeist 2008). She’s currently completing a book on animal ethics and disability studies, forthcoming from the Feminist Press, NY. She holds an MFA from the Department of Art Practice at UC Berkeley.