Call for Papers: Animal Rights in the Wake of Deepwater Horizon

July 5th, 2010 1:08 pm by Kelly Garbato

In-Memory-of-All-That-Is-Lost: An Oil Spill Cemetery in Grand Isle, Louisiana, on You Tube.

The above video depicts an “oil spill cemetery” erected by Grand Isle, LA resident Patrick Shay in his front yard. The art installation/protest includes dozens of white crosses, each standing waist high and bearing the name of something (or someone) – an animal species, activity, item or foodstuff – that’s been impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil “spill.” The “deceased” include: the beach, sand, a walk on the beach, seagulls, diving, sharks, birdwatching, star gazing, shrimp, shrimp scampi, shrimp omelette, shrimp cocktail, shrimping, oyster boats, oyster Rocherfeller, summer fun, sandcastles, family time, frogs croaking, marsh, brown pelican, sea turtles, dolphins, redfish, crabbing, boiled crabs, stuffed crabs, fish fry, seafood gumbo, and our soul. Shots of individual crosses in the cemetery are interspersed with footage of the local beaches as they look now.

More than any news coverage I’ve witnessed since (the cemetery was erected and reported on in early June), this graveyard embodies the disconnect between humans’ expressed empathy for the nonhuman victims of the oil spill – and our actions toward them, before, during and (no doubt) after the Gulf disaster. For example, the inclusion of “food” animals in the cemetery is rather ironic; had they not perished or become otherwise “polluted” in the oil spill, “crabbers” and “fishermen” would have slaughtered these same shrimps, redfishes and crabs (etc.) by the millions. Absent the oil spill, these animals would have died anyway; Shay’s (et al.’s) tears are not for these animals themselves, but for the many products borne of their exploitation: seafood gumbo, oyster Rocherfeller and stuffed crabs. As someone who considers all animals equally worthy of consideration, I simply cannot join Mr. Shay in mourning a “way of life” that’s predicated upon taking the actual lives of others. Whether stolen by megacorp BP or by working-class fishermen, these mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters and sons will never get their lives back.

Although I continue to follow the Deepwater disaster with a mix of horror, anger and grief, my empathy rests with the disaster’s (and the kyriarchy’s) perpetual victims – in this case, the millions of nonhuman animals to whom the Gulf Coast is home. The rest of us? We’re all complicit in this tragedy – and the billions of smaller, mostly-invisible tragedies that take place every single day – to varying degrees.

While many of vegans no doubt share similar feelings, our perspective is virtually nonexistent in mainstream coverage of the oil spill and its fallout. And so I was terribly excited to see the following call for papers posted on the NILAS mailing list. Crude Behavior: Animal Rights in the Wake of Deepwater Horizon will examine the oil spill, its short- and long-term effects, and public discourse surrounding these from an animal welfare/rights perspective. (I’m inclined to scream “Finally!,” but – doesn’t it seem a bit soon to be dissecting a disaster that’s still ongoing? Wev, I’ll scoop up a copy regardless of when it’s released.) Abstracts are due August 1st.

For more on the Deepwater Horizon disaster, please see BP Oil “Spill”: Animal Rescue, Disaster Relief, Action Alerts & Vegan Views, also at easyvegan.info.

———- Forwarded message ———-
Date: Thu, Jul 1, 2010 at 2:32 PM
Subject: Fwd: [humananimalstudies] Call for Papers
To: H-NILAS [at] h-net.msu.edu

Hello All:

I am just writing to solicit proposals for a volume on animal rights and the Gulf oil spill. Information is below. If you are interested in proposing a paper, please send a 500 word abstract and a short bio/c.v. to skelly [at] fgcu.edu.

Thanks,
Sean Kelly
Associate Professor of Phil. & Lit.
Florida Gulf Coast Univ.

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Call for Proposals: Crude Behavior: Animal Rights in the Wake of Deepwater Horizon

The U.S. popular media had constructed the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico as an environmental, ecological, economic, and even political disaster. While all of these are undeniably fair readings of the catastrophe, these same outlets have not expended much of an effort considering the effect that this event can and should have on how we perceive our duties and responsibilities toward the individual animals impacted by it.

While there are discussions about how many animals may be dying in the Gulf; how many tarred birds have been appearing on beaches; and how many fish are dying in the near-shore, oxygen-depleted environments to which they have fled, these discussions have been careful to avoid holding BP or others ethically responsible to those individual animals.

There is no question that the general public is concerned with these animals. For most of us, we have a vague feeling that we are responsible, or that at least someone is, to them. However, the public debate is doing little to help us understand this feeling. Because the disaster has been framed almost entirely within conservationist terms, terms that privilege ecosystems above individuals in those systems, the media has decidedly framed our emotional understanding in ways that absolve us from considering our duties to animals who are suffering right now in the Gulf. One of the major philosophical implications of our public failing to consider these individual animals is that we risk widening the rift between conservation and animal-rights positions to the point where a conservationist understanding totally eclipses rights based one. The danger there is that this denies us access to what a rights approach brings to the table in helping us to better understand our emotional, ethical, and public feelings regarding this unthinkable tragedy.

“God Help Us All!”: Protest art situated outside of a tattoo parlour in Larose, Louisiana. A sculpture (mannequin?) of an oil-soaked man wearing a gas mask and holding a dead fish stands nearly two stories high. To the man’s side stands a small child, hood pulled tight over his head; in the foreground, he holds a large sign reading, “God help us all!” Off in the background, there’s a one-dimensional cutout, shaped and painted to resemble a water tower. The tower’s lettering reads, “Louisiana water tower,” with the word “water” crossed out and “oil” scribbled beneath. Again, that poor fish need’s God’s intervention more than any Gulf Coast residents – oil spill or not. CC image via kk+ on Flickr.
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This volume seeks to call attention to the ethical issues that a moral individualist approach raises in the aftermath of the BP disaster. Papers from all disciplinary and methodological viewpoints are encouraged. Sample topics might include:

conservationist v. moral individualist approaches to the disaster

treatment of the Deepwater Horizon disaster from positions in traditional and non-traditional animal rights/welfare philosophy

the larger issue of ethical responsibility to non-human animals in light of the oil spill

insightful cultural studies’ approaches to the media’s responses

theoretical musings about the implications that this event will have for future animal rights debates

human v. animal rights in the public discourse

Please send 500 word abstracts along with a brief bio to Sean Kelly at skelly [at] fgcu.edu. Deadline for abstracts is August 1, 2010.

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One Response to “Call for Papers: Animal Rights in the Wake of Deepwater Horizon

  1. BP Oil “Spill”: Animal Rescue, Disaster Relief, Action Alerts & Vegan Views » V for Vegan: easyVegan.info Says:

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