Animal–industrial complex

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Pigs confined in gestation crates, part of the animal–industrial complex. According to Noske, animals "have become reduced to mere appendages of computers and machines."[1]:299

The term animal–industrial complex (AIC) refers to the systematic and institutionalized exploitation of animals. Proponents of the term claim that activities described by the term differ from individual acts of animal cruelty in that they constitute institutionalized animal exploitation.


The term animal–industrial complex was coined by the Dutch cultural anthropologist and philosopher Barbara Noske in her 1989 book Humans and Other Animals, saying that animals "have become reduced to mere appendages of computers and machines."[2]:20[1]:299 The term relates the practices, organizations, and overall industry that turns animals into food and other commodities to the military–industrial complex.[1]:xii, 298

Richard Twine later refined the concept, regarding it as the "partly opaque and multiple set of networks and relationships between the corporate (agricultural) sector, governments, and public and private science. With economic, cultural, social and affective dimensions it encompasses an extensive range of practices, technologies, images, identities and markets."[3]:23 Twine also discusses the overlap between the AIC and other similar complexes, such as the prison–industrial complex, entertainment–industrial complex, and pharmaceutical–industrial complex.[3]:17–18 Sociologist David Nibert defines the animal–industrial complex as "a massive network that includes grain producers, ranching operations, slaughterhouse and packaging firms, fast food and chain restaurants, and the state," which he claims "has deep roots in world history."[4]:197

Origin and properties of the complex[edit]

Although the origin of the animal–industrial complex can be traced back to the time when domestication of animals began,[4]:208 it was only since 1945 that the complex began to grow significantly under contemporary capitalism.[1]:299[4]:208 Kim Stallwood claims that the animal–industrial complex is "an integral part of the neoliberal, transnational order of increasing privatization and decreasing government intervention, favouring transnational corporations and global capital."[1]:299 According to Stallwood, two milestones mark the shift in human attitudes toward animals that empowered the animal–industrial complex, namely, Chicago and its stockyards and slaughterhouses from 1865 and the post–World War II developments such as intensive factory farms, industrial fishing, and xenotransplantation.[1]:299–300 In the words of Nibert, the Chicago slaughterhouses were significant economic powers of the early 20th century and were "famous for the cruel, rapid-paced killing and disassembly of enormous numbers of animals."[4]:200 To elucidate animal–industrial complex, Stallwood cites Upton Sinclair's 1906 novel The Jungle, which explicitly describes the mistreatment of animals during their lives until they end up at the slaughterhouse.[1]:300 He also quotes Charles Patterson's Eternal Treblinka, which compares treatment of animals with the Holocaust and explains how the disassembly of animals in the slaughterhouses inspired Henry Ford's assembling of cars in factories and how it further influenced the Third Reich in Nazi Germany in building concentration camps and gas chambers.[1]:300

According to Stallwood, the animal–industrial complex breeds animals in the billions in order to make products and services for human consumption, and all these animals are considered legal property of the animal–industrial complex. The animal–industrial complex is said to have transformed the already confused relationship between human and non-human animals, significantly increasing the consumption and threatening human survival, and the pervasive nature of the animal–industrial complex is such that it evades attention.[1]:299

Nibert argues that while it has its origins in the use of animals during the establishment of agricultural societies, the animal-industrial complex is ultimately "a predictable, insidious outgrowth of the capitalist system with its penchant for continuous expansion". According to Nibert, this complex is so destructive in its pursuit of resources such as land and water to rear all of these animals as a source of profit that it warrants comparisons to Attila the Hun. As the human population grows to a projected 9 billion by the middle of the century, meat production is expected to increase by 40%.[4]:208 Nibert further states,

The profound cultural devaluation of other animals that permits the violence that underlies the animal industrial complex is produced by far-reaching speciesist socialization. For instance, the system of primary and secondary education under the capitalist system largely indoctrinates young people into the dominant societal beliefs and values, including a great deal of procapitalist and speciesist ideology. The devalued status of other animals is deeply ingrained; animals appear in schools merely as caged “pets,” as dissection and vivisection subjects, and as lunch. On television and in movies, the unworthiness of other animals is evidenced by their virtual invisibility; when they do appear, they generally are marginalized, vilified, or objectified. Not surprisingly, these and numerous other sources of speciesism are so ideologically profound that those who raise compelling moral objections to animal oppression largely are dismissed, if not ridiculed.[4]:208

Contributors to the 2013 book Animals and War, which linked critical animal studies and critical peace studies,[5] explored the connections between the animal-industrial complex and the military-industrial complex, proposing and analysing the idea of a military-animal industrial complex.[6]:16 The exploitation of animals, argues Colin Salter, is not necessary to military-industrial complexes, but it is a foundational and central element of the military-industrial complex as it actually exists.[6]:20 One of the aims of the book as a whole was to argue for the abolition of the military-animal industrial complex and all wars.[5]:120

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Sorenson, John (2014). Critical Animal Studies: Thinking the Unthinkable. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Canadian Scholars' Press. ISBN 978-1-55130-563-9. Retrieved 7 October 2018.
  2. ^ Noske, Barbara (1989). Humans and Other Animals: Beyond the Boundaries of Anthropology. Pluto Press. ISBN 978-18-530-5054-1.
  3. ^ a b Twine, Richard (2012). "Revealing the 'animal-industrial complex'—A concept & method for Critical Animal Studies?". Journal for Critical Animal Studies. 10 (1): 12–39.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Nibert, David (2011). "Origins and Consequences of the Animal Industrial Complex". In Steven Best; Richard Kahn; Anthony J. Nocella II; Peter McLaren (eds.). The Global Industrial Complex: Systems of Domination. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 197–209. ISBN 978-0739136980. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. ^ a b Nocella, Anthony J. (2014). "A critical animal and peace studies argument to ending all wars". In Salter, Colin; Nocella, Anthony J.; Bentley, Judy K. C. (eds.). Animals and War. Lanham: Lexington Books.
  6. ^ a b Salter, Colin (2014). "Introducing the military-animal industrial complex". In Salter, Colin; Nocella, Anthony J.; Bentley, Judy K. C. (eds.). Animals and War. Lanham: Lexington Books.

Further reading[edit]

  • Matsuoka, Atsuko; Sorenson, John (2018). Critical Animal Studies: Towards Trans-species Social Justice. Rowman and Littlefield International—Intersections series. London: Rowman & Littlefield International. ISBN 978-1-78660-647-1.
  • Nocella II, Anthony J.; Sorenson, John; Socha, Kim; Matsuoka, Atsuko (2014). Defining Critical Animal Studies: An Intersectional Social Justice Approach for Liberation. Institute for Critical Animal Studies. Bern: Peter Lang. ISBN 978-1-4331-2136-4. ISSN 1058-1634
  • Taylor, Nik; Twine, Richard (2014). The rise of Critical Animal Studies. From the Margins to the Centre. Routledge Advances in Sociology. New York: Routledge. ISBN 9781138125919.
  • Twine, Richard (2010). Animals as Biotechnology: Ethics, Sustainability and Critical Animal Studies. Science in Society Series. New York: Earthscan (Routledge). ISBN 978-1-84407-830-1.