Sunaura Taylor on disability and animals

Disability is everywhere in animal agriculture, and especially factory farms. The animals people eat are largely manufactured to be disabled. Animals are bred to have too much muscle for their bodies to hold, cows and chickens develop broken bones and osteoporosis from the overproduction of milk and eggs. Very often the very thing animals are bred for is, or leads to, disability. They are also disabled through mutilation, through abuse, and through dangerous and toxic environments. Even my disability, Arthrogryposis, is found on farms. In cows it’s known as “Curly Calf.”

Of course the first thing these issues bring up are ethical concerns over the use of animals for food. But they also raise a lot of other sorts of questions for both animal ethics and disability studies. For instance, what happens if we try to view disability in this context through a social model lens of disability? The social model understands disability largely as a consequence of discrimination and inaccessible environments. Well, there is no doubt that the environments these animals exist in disable them, even more than their physical impairments do. But simultaneously it is challenging to understand disability in this context as anything other than suffering, which is another thing that disability studies has really tried to theorize. So thinking about disability in animals raises important questions about what disability is—questions about such things as vulnerability, normalcy and suffering.

– Sunaura Taylor in interview with Erica Grossman in JCAS 12:2, Spring 2014

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