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The American system of criminal law and punishment is racist, classist, destructive, and ineffective in preventing harm and promoting justice. This isn’t an extreme view, nor is it a secret. Indeed, more than half of the country has concluded that aspects of our system of punishment are unfair according to recent polling. Nonetheless, many Americans reflexively seek out punitive interventions in response to vexing social problems. We operate in a realm of dissonance recognizing in the abstract the dysfunction and cruelty of the system, but also endorse criminal interventions in support of the social goals we support. These complicated, contradictory views about the system of law, policing, and imprisonment have been, until quite recently, relatively unexamined. This book encourages reflection on these complex issues of progressive carceralism.
During the afternoon of April 20, 2021, people across the United States were tensely waiting to learn what the Minneapolis jury would decide in the murder trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin. Chauvin was being tried for killing George Floyd after pressing his knee into the back of Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and twenty-nine seconds while he was facedown on the pavement. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a trial that would only have been witnessed by family and other locals was televised nationally and reported on every night in great detail. After millions watched Chauvin kill George Floyd on video, taken by teenage witness Darnella Frazier, Black Lives Matter protests and calls to abolish and defund the police occurred across the country, sometimes met with police and vigilante violence.
Carceral logics permeate our thinking about humans and nonhumans. We imagine that greater punishment will reduce crime and make society safer. We hope that more convictions and policing for animal crimes will keep animals safe and elevate their social status. The dominant approach to human-animal relations is governed by an unjust imbalance of power that subordinates or ignores the interest nonhumans have in freedom. In this volume Lori Gruen and Justin Marceau invite experts to provide insights into the complicated intersection of issues that arise in thinking about animal law, violence, mass incarceration, and social change. Advocates for enhancing the legal status of animals could learn a great deal from the history and successes (and failures) of other social movements. Likewise, social change lawyers, as well as animal advocates, might learn lessons from each other about the interconnections of oppression as they work to achieve liberation for all. This title is also available as Open Access on Cambridge Core.
This chapter interrogates arguments for doing invasive research on animals in laboratories. A non-speciesist utilitarian test for determining when experimentation may be justified is introduced and discussed as is the abolition of animal experimentation.