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Politics, Animals and Technology

Convenors

Angie Pepper (University of Roehampton)

Eva Meijer (Wageningen University & Research)

Josh Milburn (University of Sheffield); jmilburn02@qub.ac.uk


Early discourse on animal ethics concentrated primarily on questions to do with the moral status of animals and whether animals could be the bearers of moral rights. Over the last twenty years, philosophers and political theorists have started to ask recognisably political questions about human relationships with animals. However, animal ethics and animal rights – in both their traditional ‘moral’ form and their new ‘political’ form – have overlooked many questions at the intersection of animal ethics, politics, and technology. This is despite the fact that there has been an explosion of technological innovation impacting all dimensions of human-animal interaction, and despite the extensive discussion of what technology can tell us about humanity and animality from animal studies scholarship.

We propose to bring together animal ethicists to ask about the links between animals, ethics, politics, and technology. The workshop will ask and address questions including, but not necessarily limited to, the following: 

  • In what ways can technological innovations improve the lives of domesticated or wild animals?  What objections might we have to these?
  • What can (our attitudes towards) artificial intelligence tell us about (our attitude towards) animal minds? Are AI rights and animal rights natural allies?
  • What ethical and political questions are raised by the presence (or otherwise) of animals in video games? On social media? In other technological ‘spaces’?
  • Innovations in technology have made it possible for us to learn more about the ‘secret’ lives of animals. Do animals have a right against us monitoring them and surveilling them? Do animals have rights over data about them? Should we be concerned about the gathering, use, or distribution of data about animals?
  • In what ways can animals be permissibly used in technological development? Do animals engage in their own forms of technological development? Does this have political consequences?
  • How can we make technological development – or particular technological developments – more animal-friendly?
  • In what ways are technology used in pro- or anti-animal activism? What ethical, legal, and political problems do these raise?
  • Are our existing philosophical and normative frameworks suitable for conceptualising and addressing questions concerning animals and technology? What alternatives are there?

Confirmed speakers: Cheryl Abbate (University of Nevada, Las Vegas); Kyle Johannsen (Queen’s University); Jo Ann Oravec (University of Wisconsin-Whitewater); Clare Palmer (Texas A&M); Michelle Westerlaken (University of Cambridge).