Vegetarian criticisms will be likely to assume as their work either one of two tasks. Perhaps most obviously, vegetarian criticisms will seek to ameliorate the suffering of nonhuman animals at the hands of especially human ones by documenting as best it can the facts, complexity, intransigence, and adverse consequences of that suffering. Another possibility is that vegetarian criticisms will seek simply to document the vicissitudes in the ongoing emergence, circulation, and ramification of vegetarian identities, cultures, practices, and discourses.

Crucially, these two projects will often appear to be at odds with one another.

[ . . . ]

For me, vegetarian criticism must actually take as its point of departure the inevitability of human/nonhuman animal demarcations, an inevitability that is continuous with the concomitant inevitability of ongoing demarcations among animals, human and nonhuman. And this vegetarian criticism should take, then, as its tasks, both the perpetual troubling of these demarcations and the documentation of their transformations and effects. This would seem to me to be a critical practice that comports well with a sense of the political that has as its constitutive anxiety the simultaneous recognition of the necessity and the impossibility of eliminating violence altogether from public life, a sense of the political which provokes a seriousness the strictures of which afford not purity, but, it is to be hoped, among other things, perhaps a real measure of pleasure.




The End of The Awakening, by Kate Chopin, followed by “Emancipation: A Life Fable”

Despondency had come upon her there in the wakeful night, and had never lifted. There was no one thing in the world that she desired. There was no human being whom she wanted near her [. . . ] But she knew a way to elude them. She was not thinking of these things when she walked down to the beach.

The water of the Gulf stretched out before her, gleaming with the million lights of the sun. The voice of the sea is seductive, never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander in abysses of solitude. All along the white beach, up and down, there was no living thing in sight. A bird with a broken wing was beating the air above, reeling, fluttering, circling disabled down, down to the water. [ .  .  . ]

But when she was there beside the sea, absoutely alone, she cast the unplaeasant, pricking garments from her, and for the first time in her life she stood naked in the open air, at the mercy of the sun, the breeze that beat upon her, and the waves that invited her.

How strange and awful it seemed to stand naked under the sky! how delicious! She felt like some new-born creature, opening its eyes in a familiar world that it had never known.

The foamy wavelets curled up to her white feet, and coiled like serpents about her ankles. She walked out. The water was chill, but she walked on. The water was deep, but she lifted her white body and reached out with a long, sweeping stroke. The touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft, close embrace.

She went on and on. She remembered the night she swam far out, and recalled the terror that seized her at the fear of being unable to regain the shore. She did not look back now, but went on and on, thinking of the blue-grass meadow that she had traversed when a little child, believing that it had no beginning and no end.

Her arms and legs were growing tired. [ . . . ]

Exhaustion was pressing upon and overpowering her. [. . . ]

She looked into the distance, and the old terror flamed up for an instant, then sank again. Edna heard her father’s voice and her sister Margaret’s. She heard the barking of an old dog that was chained to the sycamore tree. The spurs of the cavalry officery clanged as he walked across the porch. There was the hum of bees, and the musky odor of pinks filled the air.

Emancipation: A Life Fable

There wans once an animal born into this world, and opining his eyes upon Life, he saw above and about him confining walls, and before him were bars of iron through which came air and light from without; this animal was born in a cage.

Here he grew, and throve in strength and beauty under care of an invisible protecting hand. Hungering, food was ever at hand. When he thirsted water was brought, and when he felt the need of rest, there was provided a bed of straw upon which to lie: and here he found it good, licking his handsome flanks, to bask in the sun beam that he thought existed but to lighten his home.

Awakening one day from his slothful rest, lo! the door of his cage stood open: accident had opened it. In the corner he crouched, wondering and fearingly. Then slowly did he approach the door, dreading the unaccustomed, and would have closed it, but for such a task his lips were purposeless. So out the opening he thrust his head, to see the canopy of the sky gro broader, and the world waxing wider.

Back to his corner but not to rest, for the spell of the Unknown was over him, and again and again he goes to the open door, seeing each time more Light.

Then one time standing in the flood of it; a deep in-drawn breath–a bracing of strong limbs, and with a bound he was gone.

On he rushes, in his mad flisht, heedless that he is wounding and tearing his sleek sides–seeing, smelling, touching of all things; even stopping to put his lips to the noxious pool, thinking it may be sweet.

Hungering there is no food but such as he must seek nad ofttimes fight for; and his limbs are weighted before he reaches the water that is good to his thristing throat.

So does he live, seeking, finding, joying and suffering. The door which accident had opened is open still, but the cage remains forever empty!

Excerpt From:

Chopin, Kate, and Sandra M. Gilbert. The Awakening and Selected Stories. New York: Penguin, 2003. Print.

John Isaacs, “Untitled”

In 1967 the renoun(c)ed Martin Seligman discovered that he could induce what he called “learned helpnessness” by administering painful electric shock treatments to dogs restrained by harnesses, until they no longer showed  signs of attempting to avoid the shock, even after the harnesses were removed. That is, the state of “learned helplessness” would occur when the dogs were shocked (from an electric floor) without harnesses , and rather than try to escape, “simply lay down passively and whined.”

Later, these same techniques were adopted by the CIA and are reported to have been used at Guantanamo bay and other sites in order to improve interrogation ‘effectiveness’:

Ode To Nothing

Amidst withered ears in the field, which whisper cussing into wind,

Massacred masses, forsaken, sacred,

Through with feeling someone else’s fear,

Plot together of love or mourning.

Wretched, steeped in the foul stench of soil and air, and then it does not rain.

Nothingness sucks out vespers like snakes swallowing other tales from their own,

Unable to retch, to reverse the tract because of course,

This time is already backwards.

When emit-ted, the forbidden tongues lick emptiness burnt out of the hollow night above the rotting field.

There, their silence ends all beginnings.

As they must, the wet smells rise, sweet stench, putrid, ambrosial shit, snot-salve and gruel.

In the distance, the pine trees wait for bodies of harts to lie at their roots.

Their seduction seeps out like wild hair or a murder of ravens,

Spreading invisibly into the blackest of nights, bearing abyss

Through out each eye like a black tear.

Was ist animal auf Deutsche? Nichts. Tier.

The swallows drop their gullets to the white cut of the moon in the sky.

The ravens caw through, over and into the fields, the soil, shorn against the dying corn.

Somewhere a laborer wrenches the left ear off the head of a sow,

Slipping it from his fist onto the ground, and crushing

It into the blood with the sole of his leather boot,

To break her will, and cow her

Toward dis-

Assembly, the kill-floor, a rent jugular, the blood-pit, the line.

The ghosts speak like a bucket of severed ears, emptied on the table,

A colonel or lieutenant eating them

As many years as lumps of cleaved flesh,

Cloven hooves.

Here, the husks peel back layers of themselves to speak into shells cleaving to

The sides of your head in ruin

‘Abandon   All   Hope’

The stalks cast their own worn, weather-eaten ears

Toward the wasteland beneath;

The curses of which passeth all understanding.

van g

van Gogh, The Ox-Cart (1884)

Woolf’s biography of a nineteenth century canine companion to an upper class ‘in-valid’ is currently blowing (through) my mind.

“Why, Miss Barrett wondered, did Flush tremble suddenly, and whimper and start and listen? She could hear nothing; she could see nothing; there was nobody in the room with them.” (36)

“He could smell nothing; he could hear nothing. There was nobody in the room with them. The fact was that they could not communicate with words, and it was a fact that led undoubtedly to much misunderstanding. Yet did it not lead also to a peculiar intimacy? [. . . ] After all, she may have thought, do words say everything? Can words say anything? Do not words destroy the symbol that lies beyond the reach of words?” (37)

1700 animals are slaughtered in abbatoirs or sacrificed in research laboratories in well under a minute, every minute, of every day.