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The Case against Animal Rights: A Literary Intervention

This thesis aims at thinking through the ethical position of animals in a way that differs radically from the manner in which this ethical position is thought within contemporary animal rights discourse.

Berrie Vugts
18 March 2015
Full text available in Leiden Repository

The reason for this alternative approach is that today's animal rights discourse is characterized by a polemic on demarcation that seems both irresolvable and scientifically unwarranted for being centred on a necessarily arbitrary demarcation between the human and the animal. This cannot but lead to irresponsible demarcation decisions, which implies we must imagine other ways of thinking through the question of the animal.

In my research I propose to do this by looking at how language operates within demarcation decisions between humans and animals, both in the legal, literary and popular domain. More specifically, this study demonstrates that the study of tropes in literary texts may enable us to work out modes of identification with animals other than those we typically encounter in the legal and public sphere and,hence, can help us to get beyond the issues of cruelty and consiousness that dominate contemporary animal rights debate as a result of its excessively tight focus on demarcation.

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