FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Inhumane Economy

In a recent op-ed (Karma tastes delicious in America’s new, humane economy, Washington Post, April 15, 2016), Kathleen Parker lauds what she sees as a “revolution…in the ever-more-dignified animal kingdom.” For Parker, evidence of the revolution is clear. From SeaWorld’s ban on orca breeding, to Armani’s discontinuation of fur-use in products, to Walmart’s promise of “cage-free” egg production by 2025, a “sweeping evolution” is taking place throughout America’s economy. This r/evolution is happening in corporate boardrooms across the country, Parker says, because executives understand that “humane treatment of animals and good business practices are not mutually exclusive.”

The only problem with Parker’s claim is that big business doesn’t give a damn about the plight of animals except where there is money to be made or preserved. The so-called Humane Economy is anything but. Like the criminal who abstains from violence based solely on the fear of being caught and punished, business executives implement “humane” practices in food production and entertainment industries only after having their hand forced, once their corporate balances sheets or forecasts are impacted by gruesome exposes on their practices.

See, even if a CEO finds within himself a newfound respect for animals, his compassion is only as good as its effect on the company’s bottom line. As soon as consumer tastes change, activism quiets, or competition eliminates the already razor-thin corporate margin, animal torture and exploitation will once again continue unabated. In fact, it would have to under any of these circumstances — CEOs and other corporate officers have a fiduciary obligation to maximize shareholder value, if necessary, on the backs of animals. What these new tweaks to the capitalist production chain represent is corporate America’s realization that there are unrealized profits (or more likely, losses to be stemmed) in the bourgeois, upper-middle class, feel-good Humane Economy. But despite these companies’ supposed recognition that animal abuse can no longer be tolerated, we still must give them time to “phase out” their practices so that their bottom lines remain as untarnished as possible.

Unlike racism, sexism, and many other historical forms of discrimination which have now become more structural than overt – speciesism endures as a bold and proud American tradition. Americans shamelessly consume animal flesh three meals a day, watch animals in “performances” which require tortuous training, and gun down incapacitated animals for sport, all without a second thought. Not one iota of consideration goes into the deplorable conditions in which animals suffer so that consumer tastes may be satisfied. Capitalism enables this depravity. The consumer’s product is conveniently divorced from its complex production process, essentially giving the finished commodity a fictitious life of its own.

This commodity fetishism, to use one of Karl Marx’s terms, is part and parcel of today’s global economy. The final consumer good on one’s plate or draped on one’s back must be completely disconnected from the production process that’s brought it there, especially in the case of animal goods. The alienation process is clearly desirable for barbaric producers. But consumers play a willing role as well. “I don’t want to know” has become an all-too-common refrain at dinner tables everywhere.

As usual, the state lags even further behind on animal issues. While corporate reformists can at least feign concern for animals with their soft reforms, the state continues to provide them with a comfortable safety net built into the law. Although animal cruelty statutes are now commonplace, they will remain largely meaningless so long as animals are classified as chattel property. Prosecution for animal cruelty requires violence so wanton and gratuitous that the assailant can come up with no legitimate reason why he “used his property” in the fashion alleged. Otherwise, a balancing test between the human and animal interests at play is generally applied. The result under our current animal-as-property regime is a foregone conclusion where the animal’s life and death interest interferes with a company’s stock price. How could it be any other way when one of the parties involved is mere property?

While we should never diminish actual improvements in the lives of earth’s most exploited beings, we should label these slow-drip Humane Economy reforms appropriately. They are too slow and not radical enough. Real progress will strike at the root of the problem – animals’ legal classification as property.

This article was originally published by Center for a Stateless Society.

More articles by:

Chad Nelson is senior editor at the Center for a Stateless Society. He’s an attorney based out of Providence, Rhode Island and a Fellow at C4SS. He considers himself one of the world’s biggest Pearl Jam fans despite their blind obedience to the Obama administration. Follow him on Twitter @cnels43.

Weekend Edition
February 15, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Matthew Hoh
Time for Peace in Afghanistan and an End to the Lies
Chris Floyd
Pence and the Benjamins: An Eternity of Anti-Semitism
Rob Urie
The Green New Deal, Capitalism and the State
Jim Kavanagh
The Siege of Venezuela and the Travails of Empire
Paul Street
Someone Needs to Teach These As$#oles a Lesson
Andrew Levine
World Historical Donald: Unwitting and Unwilling Author of The Green New Deal
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Third Rail-Roaded
Eric Draitser
Impacts of Exploding US Oil Production on Climate and Foreign Policy
Ron Jacobs
Maduro, Guaidó and American Exceptionalism
John Laforge
Nuclear Power Can’t Survive, Much Less Slow Climate Disruption
Joyce Nelson
Venezuela & The Mighty Wurlitzer
Jonathan Cook
In Hebron, Israel Removes the Last Restraint on Its Settlers’ Reign of Terror
Ramzy Baroud
Enough Western Meddling and Interventions: Let the Venezuelan People Decide
Robert Fantina
Congress, Israel and the Politics of “Righteous Indignation”
Dave Lindorff
Using Students, Teachers, Journalists and other Professionals as Spies Puts Everyone in Jeopardy
Kathy Kelly
What it Really Takes to Secure Peace in Afghanistan
Brian Cloughley
In Libya, “We Came, We Saw, He Died.” Now, Maduro?
Nicky Reid
The Councils Before Maduro!
Gary Leupp
“It’s All About the Benjamins, Baby”
Jon Rynn
What a Green New Deal Should Look Like: Filling in the Details
David Swanson
Will the U.S. Senate Let the People of Yemen Live?
Dana E. Abizaid
On Candace Owens’s Praise of Hitler
Raouf Halaby
‘Tiz Kosher for Elected Jewish U.S. Officials to Malign
Rev. William Alberts
Trump’s Deceitful God-Talk at the Annual National Prayer Breakfast
W. T. Whitney
Caribbean Crosswinds: Revolutionary Turmoil and Social Change 
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
Avoiding Authoritarian Socialism
Howard Lisnoff
Anti-Semitism, Racism, and Anti-immigrant Hate
Ralph Nader
The Realized Temptations of NPR and PBS
Cindy Garcia
Trump Pledged to Protect Families, Then He Deported My Husband
Thomas Knapp
Judicial Secrecy: Where Justice Goes to Die
Louis Proyect
The Revolutionary Films of Raymundo Gleyzer
Sarah Anderson
If You Hate Campaign Season, Blame Money in Politics
Victor Grossman
Contrary Creatures
Tamara Pearson
Children Battling Unhealthy Body Images Need a Different Narrative About Beauty
Peter Knutson
The Salmon Wars in the Pacific Northwest: Banning the Rough Customer
Binoy Kampmark
Means of Control: Russia’s Attempt to Hive Off the Internet
Robert Koehler
The Music That’s in All of Us
Norah Vawter
The Kids Might Save Us
Tracey L. Rogers
Freedom for All Begins With Freedom for the Most Marginalized
Paul Armentano
Marijuana Can Help Fight Opioid Abuse
Tom Clifford
Britain’s Return to the South China Sea
Graham Peebles
Young People Lead the Charge to Change the World
Matthew Stevenson
A Pacific Odyssey: Around General MacArthur’s Manila Stage Set
B. R. Gowani
Starbucks Guy Comes Out to Preserve Billionaire Species
David Yearsley
Bogart Weather
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail