Geoscience Reference
In-Depth Information
Although scarcity cannot be seen as a guarantee of some form of ethical
consideration for any given species, abundance within populations of non-humans
does often seem to have a significant effect on how that population, and thus
individuals within it, are treated. This can be seen in Thorne's (1998:1) work on
kangaroos, where, through their extensive collective presence, the (un)ethical
treatment of individuals is not only sanctioned but largely unquestioned. Here,
'animals are effectively “non-issues” in the sense that trading systems created around
them are assumed defensible at a basic level…because the animals are deemed
abundant.' As Thorne points out, only if they were to decrease dramatically in
numbers would kangaroos begin to enter the 'ethical' realm of the Convention on
International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
agreement and other endangered species campaigning. In CITES and other
conservation initiatives, scarcity and population numbers are always key in
determining what falls within or without consideration. The line between protecting
or hunting or culling of, say, various whale species or elephants, and many other
species, is one which is constructed around calculations of population levels in
certain spaces of one sort or another. Although the resulting treatment of any
individual in groups either side of this divide may well be markedly different, in
neither case would the individual be the ethical focus.
The ethical invisibility of the individual non-human other has been and remains
extremely useful and probably essential to modern societies. This has generally
enabled humans to manipulate, exploit, displace, consume, waste and torture non-
human individuals with impunity. Many examples could be taken to demonstrate
this usefulness, and it is interesting to imagine transmitting the ethical invisibility of
these others into a human context. For example, when it was proposed by Shell that
the Brent Spa oil platform was to be disposed of by dumping at sea, the supporting
scientific discourse argued that there would be only limited local effects on the
environment and that it would not have any meaningful impacts on the wider
environment. In other words, only individual organisms in the immediate vicinity
of the dumping would suffer damage or die, while collectively the overall ecosystem
would remain unaffected and populations would not be affected in any meaningful
(statistical) way. Thus, the individual organisms who would suffer and die were
indeed rendered ethically and statistically invisible. Individual non-human others
are often ethically and politically invisible, then, and they become lost in the crowds
of their own and other kinds. Such a positioning of non-human others has emptied
the encounter of normative ethical consideration, and of more practical everyday
moral or even emotional consideration. As Bauman (1993:115) says, echoing
Levinas, 'When the Other dissolves in the Many, the first thing to dissolve is the
Face. The Other(s) is (are) now faceless.'
There are myriad spatial/topological formulations of ethical relations between
humans and animals. Territories in which populations are counted and acted upon
are just one prominent example. The interconnecting spaces of differing animal
production/consumption systems, and the legislations which apply to them, are
another. The topologies which connect these spaces, and the imaginary spaces which
Search WWH ::

Custom Search