Animal Studies Journal


Situated alongside, and intertwined with, climate change and the relentless destruction of ‘wild’ nature, the global Covid-19 pandemic should have instigated serious reflection on our profligate use and careless treatment of other animals. Widespread references to ‘pivotal moments’ and the need for a reset in human relations with ‘nature’ appeared promising. However, important questions surrounding the pandemic’s origins and its wider context continue to be ignored and, as a result, this moment has proved anything but pivotal for animals. To explore this disconnect, this paper undertakes an analysis of dominant Covid discourses across key knowledge sites comprising mainstream media, major organizations, academia, and including prominent animal advocacy organizations. Drawing on the core tenets of Critical Animal Studies, the concept of critical animal perspectives is advanced as a way to assess these discourses and explore the illegitimacy of alternative ways of thinking about animals. Broadly, it is found that dominant Covid discourses fail to engage with the mechanisms by which human uses of nature and other animals are justified – specifically binary thinking, the normalization and naturalization of hierarchical categories of use, and the commodification of their lives and bodies – or to specify the nature and scope of practices that need to change. These key sites of knowledge, and also prominent advocacy organizations, thus reflect the illegitimacy of critical animal perspectives while also contributing to their ongoing delegitimation. Exacerbating this situation is the illegitimacy of the animal advocacy movement itself, which is attributed in part to movement factionalism and a diversity of poorly articulated aims. Mainstreaming and normalizing critical perspectives on animals has never been more necessary. Extended beyond academia, critical animal perspectives offer a potentially productive and practical way of approaching this endeavour so that future moments may be truly pivotal for humans and nonhumans alike.