Journal of Human Rights and the Environment

The fire next time: the coming cost of capitalism, animal oppression and environmental ruin

David Nibert *

Keywords: agribusiness, animal rights, climate change, crimes of economic domination, entanglements of oppression, environment, human rights, ‘Meat’ production


Using a historical materialist approach, it is argued that elite control and oppression of cows, pigs, horses, sheep and other large social animals have both enabled and promoted large-scale violence and warfare for thousands of years. The primary factor that underlies this entangled oppression – material gain – has continued and expanded under corporate capitalism – especially the practice of treating other animals as food. This profitable enterprise, legitimated and promoted by elite control of the state and the hegemonically controlled mass media, makes the unspeakable treatment of ‘farm’ animals acceptable while disguising the resultant chronic diseases: a form of structural violence. The oppression stemming from corporate promotion of animals as food has contributed to vast environmental harm, including water and air pollution, rainforest destruction, desertification and global warming. Those who profit from this system through the abuse of finite resources and the constant pursuit of ever-growing numbers of consumers, and the state supporters of these industries, are among the leading perpetrators of contemporary ‘crimes of economic domination’. These corporate practices are vastly increasing the probability of regional warfare and international conflict as countries like the United States prepare military strategies for a world of scarce finite resources, climate change and global food shortages.

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