Sunday, October 30, 2011

Vigdis Broch-Due: "Animal In Mind: People, Cattle and Shared Nature on the African Savannah"

A nice read. This is an interesting charge against progressive Western animal rights/welfare ranging from Bentham to Nussbaum [edit: I should have said something like "a charge that is surprising, perhaps questionable in its purported scope"]:
Here we have to remind ourselves that these discourses, admirable as they are, inevitably uphold the firm species barrier between the human and the animal: the animal remains definitely and completely “other”.
I wonder whether this is quite fair. However, it certainly seems right that the personal attitude toward animals of someone like Singer (as expressed in Animal Liberation where he says that he doesn't in any particular way love animals) is worlds apart from the attitude of Broch-Due's friend Emong, who sacrifices practically everything he had to save his bull.


  1. That's a really nice essay. Thanks for pointing it out.

    She doesn't really say here, though, why we have to remind ourselves of this, or why discourses such as Nussbaum's (allegedly) inevitably uphold the species barrier, does she? In fact, I get the impression that the reason we are supposed to do this reminding is precisely because Nussbaum seems not to be guilty of any such thing. So the charge may or may not be fair, but it's unsubstantiated in this essay, as I remember it.

  2. Yes, Vigdis-Broch's claim about "animal rights" discourse is rather sweeping--though taken as a point about the language of rights, well, ok. But the claim that the animal remains Other, I'm not so sure. This may be one of those cases where what look like important distinctions for philosophers (Singer vs. Regan vs. Nussbaum) don't look so important from the outside.