Killing Animals Anthology

1451143An excellent anthology, marred, and this only a little, by an over-cautious essay on the ethics of animal euthanasia (or what Tom Regan called “well-intentioned killing” when it doesn’t consider the interests of the particular animal concerned), and its hunting essay, which only in its endnotes considers the problematic status of “wild” animals in preserves and the illusion of mere alimentarity, inexessive hunting in primitive cultures. I can also complain, of course, that once again an early modernist, once again Erica Fudge, holds down the position of “the deep past.” To her credit, she does contrast Aquinas to Montaigne in the course of distinguishing between an ethics that concentrates on what anger does to the self (it stirs up the beast) and an ethics that considers the effects of anger on others. But I hope to see a medievalist (I have one in mind) in the next anthology by this group!

This is just heads and tails and hooves above the Representing Animals anthology (which shares three writers–Fudge, Marvin, and Baker–with this one: Fudge is much, much better here; Marvin, not so much so; Baker’s about the same). Apart from the Fudge, highlights include Chris Wilbert on 19th-century fascinations with man-eating animals (and especially the roundtable when they finally get why man-eating animals cease to be considered simply animals: hint–it’s about hierarchy), Jonathan Brut on the culture of industrial slaughter in debates over the supposedly uniquely ‘cultural’ religious methods of slaughter and his questioning of “humane” slaughter, and Robert McKay’s discussion of Deborah Levy’s fascinating Diary of a Steak (imagine a novel told from the perspective of a BSE-infected steak that connects BSE to Showalter’s work on hysteria and ALSO calls attention to the ethical problem of ‘giving voice’ to hysteria in representation and study).

I can complain that, despite their familiarity with Derrida’s work on animals (although it’s NOT a deep familiarity), the discussion of our relations with animals is still rights and capability oriented. Surely Derrida’s call for an ethics based around a “not being able” matters here, and, especially, Cary Wolfe’s critique of the ethical provincialism of rights based discourses (itself drawn from Derrida, inter alia) in Animal Rites(published in 2003, when this project was winding down), should have had more of an impact