UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

An ecofeminist critique of in/humane biopower : bad faith, speciesism and carnism in "happy meat" marketing Trapara, Katarina


This thesis uses an interdisciplinary Critical Animal Studies and Foucauldian Studies framework to argue that “humane” animal agribusiness is firmly implicated in the animal-industrial complex and thus poses major ethical, ecological and social justice issues. I use the term in/humane biopower to refer to the discursive power mechanisms used by the meat and dairy industries to control and manipulate public opinion surrounding the “question of the animal” (Derrida 12) as well as questions of ecological sustainability. An intersectional ecofeminist framework, which posits that nonhuman animals have subjectivity and therefore should be given moral and ethical consideration, is used to critique advertisements of “happy meat” as that which reify what Carol J. Adams has called the absent referent, which replaces the animal subject with the object of “meat”. The function of the absent referent is to allow for the moral abandonment of a being while also emptying violence from the language (Adams 41-42). I argue that the ubiquitous symbol of “happy meat” in carnist advertising and marketing is problematic in that it normalizes meat consumption by interpellating the individual as a consumer, not of violence or suffering, but of compassionate products. As my research shows, welfare discourses and regulations that aim to “improve” the lives of farmed animals justify new forms of violence against animals and do not signal the end of animal suffering. Furthermore, I observe that in/humane biopower reflects neoliberal forms of governance and citizenship where individual consumerism is seen as the answer to animal rights and ecological sustainability, rather than the radical political action I argue is necessary to rethink the centeredness of the human in the Anthropocene. I therefore conclude that ecofeminism and Critical Animal Studies alongside a Foucauldian critique of modern power provides fundamentally important lines of moral reasoning and questioning that can lead to truly sustainable and ethical outcomes for ourselves and for those beings with whom we share this planet.

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