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From “Animal Machines” to “Happy Meat”? Foucault’s Ideas of Disciplinary and Pastoral Power Applied to ‘Animal-Centred’ Welfare Discourse

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Author(s): Matthew Cole

Journal: Animals
ISSN 2076-2615

Volume: 1;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 83;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Keywords: ‘animal-centred’ welfare | disciplinary power | Foucault | ‘happy meat’ | pastoral power | Welfare Quality®

ABSTRACT
Michel Foucault’s work traces shifting techniques in the governance of humans, from the production of ‘docile bodies’ subjected to the knowledge formations of the human sciences (disciplinary power), to the facilitation of self-governing agents directed towards specified forms of self-knowledge by quasi-therapeutic authorities (pastoral power). While mindful of the important differences between the governance of human subjects and the oppression of nonhuman animals, exemplified in nonhuman animals’ legal status as property, this paper explores parallel shifts from disciplinary to pastoral regimes of human-‘farmed’ animal relations. Recent innovations in ‘animal-centred’ welfare science represent a trend away from the ‘disciplinary’ techniques of confinement and torture associated with ‘factory farms’ and towards quasi-therapeutic ways of claiming to know ‘farmed’ animals, in which the animals themselves are co-opted into the processes by which knowledge about them is generated. The new pastoral turn in ‘animal-centred’ welfare finds popular expression in ‘happy meat’ discourses that invite ‘consumers’ to adopt a position of vicarious carer for the ‘farmed’ animals who they eat. The paper concludes that while ‘animal-centred’ welfare reform and ‘happy meat’ discourses promise a possibility of a somewhat less degraded life for some ‘farmed’ animals, they do so by perpetuating exploitation and oppression and entrenching speciesist privilege by making it less vulnerable to critical scrutiny.
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