Monday, May 6, 2013

David A. Nibert's "Animal Oppression and Human Violence"

David A. Nibert worked as a tenant organizer and community activist before becoming a professor of sociology at Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio. He teaches Animals & Society, Global Change, Social Stratification, Minority Groups, and Law and Society. He is the author of Animal Rights/Human Rights: Entanglements of Oppression and Liberation and Hitting the Lottery Jackpot: State Governments and the Taxing of Dreams.

Nibert applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Animal Oppression and Human Violence: Domesecration, Capitalism, and Global Conflict, and reported the following:
Ford Madox Ford’s contention certainly cannot be disproved by a review of page 99 of Animal Oppression and Human Violence. The brutal oppression of Native Americans by the U.S. military that opened the Great Plains to profitable ranching enterprises, as glimpsed on page 99, is reflective of the ways in which the exploitation of other animals has been entangled with human oppression in the past, into the present and very possibly into the future.

Early human societies, the way in which humans lived for most of our time on the earth, were relatively peaceful and egalitarian but became hierarchical and violent with the advent of organized hunting of other animals. This conflict and division became even more pronounced when other animals were captured and exploited as food and laborers (a practice referred to in the book as domesecration). Their possession constituted wealth and power, and elite males regarded them as personal property – a view they extended to women and people they enslaved.

The exploitation of horses, cows and other large animals in early Eurasia made possible the rise of highly aggressive nomadic pastoralist societies. In a constant search for fresh pastures and water sources, tyrants like Chinggis Khan led murderous rampages that destroyed countless communities and entire societies while embedding violent, predatory traditions into the core of human societal development. What is more, the crowding together of large numbers of oppressed animals led to the emergence of deadly diseases – such as smallpox – that caused the deaths of millions. Such entangled oppression of humans and other animals also promoted and enabled deadly imperialist aggression, from the Roman Empire to the European colonizers who plundered the world.

The entangled oppression of other animals, especially for use as food, has continued into the present and is directly linked to the rapid depletion of vital finite resources (especially fresh water), environmental destruction, climate change, world hunger, global land grabs, chronic disease, and the rising threat of a new global pandemic. Today, it is positioning the planet for a calamitous future of widespread deprivation and resource wars.

Page 99 of the book provides a glimpse of how the expropriation of land and water to oppress animals for profit and to protect against perceived threats to valuable “stock” was a primary cause of the deadly wars against Native Americans. The treatment of humans and other animals seen here may well portend – unless there is a transition to a global plant-based diet for humans – the manner in which countless devalued people around the world will be treated as the oppression of other animals for food expands.

Excerpt from page 99 of Animal Oppression and Human Violence: Domesecration, Capitalism and Global Conflict:
Growing numbers of cows and sheep on the Great Plains led to the same types of conflicts between Native Americans and Anglos that occurred in the East in the early colonial era. And the “cavalries” of the U.S. military — which were provided rations consisting primarily of “poor quality salt or fresh beef or pork ” — continued the violence against Native Americans that “Mad” Anthony Wayne demonstrated in Ohio. For instance, in 1854 a cow being marched along the Oregon Trail escaped and wandered close to a Sioux village, where he was killed and eaten. A complaint was made to the army unit stationed at Fort Laramie that Native Americans had stolen the cow, and an army lieutenant “launched an impulsive punitive attack” on the Sioux village. A number of U.S. soldiers were killed in the battle, and the Sioux fled the area. In retaliation a year later, General W. S. Harvey made a surprise attack on a Sioux encampment at Blue Water Creek in eastern Wyoming. Harvey’s forces fired blindly into caves where numerous children and women sought refuge, and many were killed.

Increasingly, the ranchers’ expropriation of land and water sources led to violent conflict. For instance, ranchers largely were responsible for the displacement of the Nez Percé peoples. In 1855, as miners and ranchers poured into their territory, the U.S. territorial governor pressured the Nez Percé to give up fifteen million acres of their Idaho homeland. In 1863, gold was discovered in the land afforded to the Native Americans by the 1855 treaty, and they were compelled to give up nearly 80 percent of their remaining territory. Ranchers flooded into the area to serve the mining centers. By the 1870s, ranchers coveted the lush Wallowa Valley in Oregon, lands inhabited by the Nez Percé led by Chief Joseph, and pressured the federal government for their removal to a reservation. Angered by their impending displacement, four young Nez Percé men killed four Anglos believed to have slain several tribe elders, forcing the entire group to flee the wrath of the U.S. military. After a valiant effort to reach Canada, the group was caught forty miles short of the border. The Nez Percé surrendered on the condition that they be returned to the designated reservation in Idaho. Instead, they were imprisoned at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Learn more about Animal Oppression and Human Violence at the Columbia University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue