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Eating, meat, catastrophe

Conference contribution
Authors Matilda Arvidsson
Toni Selkälä
Published in Critical Legal Conference 2017 Stream, Warwick 1-3 September 2017.
Publication year 2017
Published at Department of Law
Language en
Keywords Meat, speciesism, the laws of eating, legal personhood and animality, gendered meat, gendered protein, in vitro meat, veganism, cannibalism
Subject categories Law


Human life depends on and is sustained by the death and consummation of others. Unless we eat something or someone we cannot live ourselves. Yet, we divide over what, how, and who to eat. This stream asks us to consider how our eating of others (plants, human-, and non-human animals) sustains our standing in a global legal-political order of gendered speciesism. Through technology of eating, we imperviously transform living entities into objects for us to eat, while simultaneously disclosing (sexual) politics of our eating (Adams, 2015). You are what you eat as Han Kang’s The Vegetarian (2009) solicitously portrays. Consuming is not simply an ethical choice but also a profoundly ontological one, or as Stanescu suggests ‘a perpetual process of self-metamorphosis’ (2012, 39). Part of such a process is to define what constitutes meat – is ‘meatless’ in vitro meat (IVM), promising animal liberation and cleaner environment, meat? (Stephens, 2013) – and devouring others. But does constant boundary-work risk to turn us into a standing-reserve of future consumption (Heidegger, 1977: 27), of us turning into cannibals ready to mutilate and enslave (Engle, 1992: 1519)? Would cannibal veganism amount to greater realization of rights of both consumed and consumer or into a catastrophic collapse of our relationship with Nature and the animal-in-us (Viveiros de Castro 2014 & Sutton 2017)? Taking the overall theme of the conference ‘catastrophe’ to mean the life-producing, slow, everyday event of being through the death of others this stream asks if what, how, and whom we eat may tell us something important about our moral and legal standing.

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