I have been left uncomfortably, with a lingering pit in my stomach, after attending a panel at McGill on “Social and the Environment: Multidisciplinary Perspectives”. The panel was asked to talk about growth/ degrowth/ sustainability/ change/ activism/ society and the environment and more, so the panelists had a range of interesting points, concerns and perspectives on working in the margins of society and the environment. What united them was the commitment to thinking about building more hospitable, prosperous, caring, relational worlds because. Throughout the conversations, nonhuman animals were reduced to their commodified forms yet the united theme was more livable worlds for humans + nature. Okay, so something to go off. I asked a question near the end, that was something around the idea of: recognizing the only nonhuman animal mentioned through the course of the conversations were fish in their commodified, roles-as-edibles and if the panelists have made any gestures in their own research, their own re-imaginings how non-human animal roles would be re-made, and if they would also be invited into living more beautiful, intimate lives? The answers were pretty disappointing. The first came from an engimatic character, that reminded us: anthropocentrism is bad, we cannot “think like animals” and the impossibility of knowing if they do have intrinsic value and also something about, not just animal life but look what we do to our crops! The second response was from a seasoned activist, very brilliant women who conjured up indigenous consumption of nonhuman animals whilst being in kinship, in loving and respectful relationships with the nonhuman world. And the third reminded me of the a creative performance that I will have to crawl into the depths of google to find again, but something I want to do for my thesis!
My thoughts as I walked home:
-why can’t we re-work our value systems to be more life-promoting? instead of dismissive because “we cannot think like them”. would it really be so out-of-this world just to hold nonhuman animal life in that regard?
-why do white folks call-upon indigenous stories of relationality when addressing consuming non-human animals? I know it is radically important to centre indigenous stories and worldviews, but is this a strategy to derail or somehow give them permission to keep casting nonhuman animals in edible-roles? it can’t be that being in solidarity with the first peoples, allows you to absorb yourself and forget your social location?
Being an animal person, I asked an animal question to a panel dedicated to more livable, and breathable worlds. Why are we pressing on however, while not questioning the roles in which nonhuman animals are subjected to. Do these roles not get questioned in our re-imagined world-ings? If so, how radical are a lot of these conversations if we uncritically keep a pool of living, breathing life to a category of exploitation, oppression and consumption?