Keynote – Maneesha Deckha

The Anthropocentric Limits of “Food Safety” as a Modernist Regulatory Norm: Industry Deference, Animal Insecurity, and the Criminalization of Compassion for Vulnerable Nonhuman Others

Maneesha Deckha, University of Victoria.

In June 2015 Pig Save founder and Canadian animal activist Anita Krajnc was charged with mischief after she gave water to thirsty pigs who were en route to slaughter. Krajnc gave the water through openings in the sides of a trailer transporting the pigs while the vehicle was stopped at an intersection. The small-town Ontario case made international headlines, a phenomenon that arguably reflects the prosecutorial misjudgment in bringing this case forward—misjudgment that resulted in the defendant’s ultimate absolution when the case was thrown out of court. This paper takes the case as a departure point for critiquing the premium given to the value of “food safety” more broadly in the regulation of animal-based food at the expense of the safety and well-being of vulnerable nonhuman animals. The paper connects the value of food safety as conventionally legally conceptualized in Canada in relation to modernized animal agricultural practices to the broader perils produced by the routine regulatory deference to industry perspectives in intensively farming animals. The paper first situates such deference as part of an unexamined cultural and legal assumption in the humane character of modern industrial animal farming technologies, practices, and conditions. The paper then discusses the costs of such deference for animals as social and sentient beings and the urgent need to reform modernist industry standards of “food safety”, as well as government policies invested in championing this value as important to the development of healthy populations, with a compassionate and just interspecies ethic toward vulnerable animal Others.

 

Maneesha Deckha (LLM, Columbia University) is Professor and Lansdowne Chair at the Faculty of Law, University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada. Her research and teaching interests include critical animal law, feminist analysis of law, postcolonial legal studies, reproductive rights, health law and bioethics. Her work has been published in Canada and internationally in socio-legal and interdisciplinary venues including American Quarterly, the Canadian Journal of Women and the Law, the Harvard Journal of Gender and Law, Hypatia, the McGill Law Journal, and Sexualities. She has also contributed to multiple anthologies relating to critical animal studies, feminism, cultural pluralism, and health law and policy, and is the recipient of grants from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and the Canada-U.S. Fulbright Program. Professor Deckha has held the Fulbright Visiting Chair in Law & Society at New York University. She currently serves on the editorial boards of Politics and Animals and Hypatia.