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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: June 2019

Chapter 1 - The Government of Animals

from Part I - Anti-Cruelty Legislation and Animal Welfare


This chapter examines nineteenth-century parliamentary debates over anti-cruelty legislation, and argues that while attempts to bring animals into a liberal political community challenged notions of the law, government, property, and human sovereignty, they often reinforce animal subjection. I use the lens of governmentality to show how the debates project regulatory strategies of liberalism onto the animal world, and argue these laws were often less liberating than has been previously discussed. At the same time, however, drives for more legislation led to new understandings of the law, and conceptualizations of certain animals as political subjects challenged major aspects of liberal political thought, such as understandings of property, the role of government, and laissez-faire ideology. These debates, as they took place within parliament and the wider public sphere, constructed a liberalized animal subject with character, simultaneously reinforcing and reinventing the liberal subject.

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