The Animal Turn – what is it and why now?

von Anne Peters
The Animal Turn and the Law – 1st Annual European Animal Law Conference on 4/5 April 2014, Law School of the University of Basel, Switzerland (Doctoral programme “Law and Animals” of the Law School of the University of Basel; in cooperation with EGALS – EuroGroup for Animal Law Studies; Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law, Heidelberg Germany)

After the linguistic turn and the iconic turn, we have been witnessing an animal turn in the social sciences and the humanities (cf. Harriet Ritvo, “On the Animal Turn”, Daedalus 136 (2007), pp. 118-122).

What do we mean by animal turn? We mean an increasing scholarly interest in animals, in the relationships between humans and other animals, and in the role and status of animals in (human) society. The animal turn is an academic focus on animals in new terms and under new premises.

Why now? Because many people know more about animals, and many also mind more. Overall, due to economic development and increasing demand for animal products, the use of animals is being industrialised, and concomitantly, the sheer number of animals exploited and killed worldwide is continuously rising.

Furthermore, information about the consequences of this global animal industry is spreading: the reduction of agricultural surface for the production of (plant) food and grain for human consumption, health problems created by overconsumption of animal products like meat or milk, the destruction of local markets through the influx of industrially produced leftover meat products from the North, the enormous contribution of the animal industry to global warming through its greenhouse gas emissions, the disruption of ecological balance through the over-fertilization by animal waste, the massive overfishing of oceans and lakes, and so on ...

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