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  • Spectacular Animal Law: Imagery, Morality, and Narratives Impacting Legal Outcomes for Nonhuman Animals

    This paper contends that much of the understandings and perceptions within postindustrial societies of both nonhuman animals and practices that they are subjected to are derived from conflicting representations generated within mass media. These representations, including narratives and imagery, may be disseminated through mediated spectacles that promote particular moral understandings or vocabularies regarding what are appropriate considerations for nonhuman animals. Building on Nibert’s theory of oppression, this paper suggests that within postindustrial capitalist societies, the communication of mediated representations of nonhuman animals and practices that they are subjected to may serve as vehicles for challenging and undermining legal statures and economic activities involving nonhuman animals, and not simply act as reinforcing mechanisms for existing economic practices and the legal statutes and practices surrounding nonhuman animals. This paper considers six case studies of how mediated spectacles have served to challenge existing societal practices involving nonhuman animals – the destruction of African ivory by Richard Leakey and the Kenyan Wildlife Service, the controversy surrounding professional football player Michael Vick, controversy over the production of foie gras, one of the first cases of mass protest over the use of primates in scientific research, the anti-whaling activities of the Sea Shepherds and efforts to end “fur farming” by Richard Coronado – and discusses how these spectacles served as vehicles for communicating alternative moral understandings about nonhuman animals. This paper suggests that spectacles surrounding nonhuman animals may be an emerging cultural, societal, and legal site for conflicts over future perceptions of the moral standing of nonhuman animals.

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