“The day may come,when the rest of the animal creation may acquire those rights which never could have been withholden from them but by the hand of tyranny.” – Jeremy Bentham (1)
The dawn of 2014 marks 225 years since Bentham drew attention toward the divisions among how Eastern and Western cultures viewed the ethical status of non-human animals, and since he infamously claimed that the question of a being’s status ” is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?” (1). This year also marks 39 years since Animal Liberation entered the philosophical and activist consciousness, due to Peter Singer’s seminal work of that title.
Here at Performing Humanity, we work to raise questions about ethical and social status of humans, non-humans, and the Othered categories that further blur those lines. To that end, we’ve compiled a brief (and by no means comprehensive) collection of how and where we located new areas of inquiry that bridge 2013 and the year ahead. As always, our editor invites comments and submissions that further develop these dialogues.
* Shows such as The Walking Dead and True Blood continued in popularity, raising questions about the roles that mortality, reason, sentience, and physical appearance play in defining humans and humanness.
* In the popular music world, the difference among men and women — and the genders they perform — caused debate, bringing the work of Robin Thicke and the concept of “Blurred Lines” to the forefront of daily life. (For more on this issue in PH, see our past posting).
* In New York, a landmark case brought forward by the Nonhuman Rights Project called for the release of Tommy, a captive chimp. Filing a writ of habeas corpus, the group demanded that Tommy’s captivity was a violation of his rights.
* A series of undercover investigations led by the group Mercy for Animals exposed widespread abuses in dairy farms and pork facilities, leading to large scale media coverage and changes in how corporations such as Tyson Foods handle nonhuman livestock.
These issues and more have shaped our transition into the new year. At PH, we invite you to develop our conversations, knowledge, and questioning about them.
(1) Jeremy Bentham, The Principles of Morals and Legislation, Chapter XVII, Section 1 (1789).