Problem Animals A Critical Genealogy of Animal Cruelty and Animal Welfare in Swedish Politics 1844–1944

University dissertation from Stockholm : Department of Political Science, Stockholm University

Abstract: Despite growing academic interest in the human–animal relationship, little research has been directed toward the political regulation of animal treatment. Even less attention has been accorded to the emergence of the long dominant paradigm in this policy area, namely, the ideology of animal welfare. This book attempts to address this gap by chronicling the early history of animal politics in Sweden with the aim of producing a critical, deconstructive genealogy of animal cruelty and animal welfare. The study ranges from the first political debates about animal cruelty in 1844 to the institution of Sweden’s first comprehensive animal protection act in 1944. Taking a post-Marxist and psychoanalytically informed approach to discourse analysis, the study focuses on how the “problem” of animal cruelty was articulated in the parliamentary debates and government documents throughout the period: What was the problem of animal (mis)treatment represented to be? What kinds of animal (ab)use were rendered uncontroversial? What kind of affective investments and ideological fantasies underpinned these discursive constructions, and how did the problematizations change over time? The book contains six empirical chapters that deal with the most important legal revisions in the period as well as the parallel debates about animal experimentation and slaughter. Two major discursive regimes—an early “anti-cruelty regime” and a later “animal welfare regime”—are identified in the material, and the transition between them is theorized in terms of discursive antagonism and dislocation. Focusing on the conflict between competing discursive logics, the study charts a century of ideological struggles through which our modern attitudes toward animals were born. The book also offers a critical reinterpretation of the success story of animal welfare. Against the assumption that modern animal welfarism progressively grew out of the preceding anti-cruelty regime, the central claim of this book is that the “welfarist turn” that took place in the 1930s and 1940s also functioned to re-entrench society’s speciesist values and de-problematize the exploitation of animals for human purposes.