Ecofeminism and Animals

While many ecological feminists do not deal explicitly with issues of how humans treat other animals, there has been concern for the welfare of animals within ecological feminist literature. Many theorists have focused on issues concerning animal welfare and the question of vegetarianism in particular, arguing that the acknowledgment of animals as having value is part of the dismantling of the logic of domination, and that factory farming is an integral part of devaluing the Earth in general. A typical ecological feminist strategy is to look for intersections of oppression and domination. For example, the connection between the cruel practices in US poultry processing plants and the exploitation of black women lung gunners who must scrape the lungs out of as many as 5000 chickens per hour, which causes a variety of health problems and injuries. In a similar vein, examination of chicken processing not only focuses on the cruel treatment of animals, but also on the fact that 33% of the workers who slaughter chickens contract crippling conditions of the hands and wrists due to having to kill as many as 75 chickens per minute. The overwhelming majority ofthese workers are women of color.

Another example is factory farms as sites of both human and animal oppression more generally. A total of 80-90% of hired farm workers in the US are Latino. It is estimated that as many as 313 000 of such workers per year end up with pesticide-related diseases. The fact that two-thirds of Latinos and blacks in the US live in areas with at least one unregulated waste site, and that race is the most significant factor in determining which communities live in such areas has been a major focus for ecological feminists. By focusing on intersections of oppression, ecological feminism raises crucial questions concerning environmental racism, about how various racist toxic policies are justified, and why it is particularly difficult for communities that are hit the hardest to fight back. Also, ecological feminism reminds us that it is not just people, but nonhumans that are affected by toxic dumping, hence pointing out the overlapping interests between nonhumans and various groups of oppressed humans. Therefore, ecological feminism pays attention to a variety of issues concerning race, class, sex, and social location in examining who is affected by polluted environments and how this is justified.

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