Alasdair Cochrane

Sentientist Politics: A Theory of Global Inter-Species Justice (Oxford University Press, 2018)

There is now widespread understanding that many non-human animals are sentient, and that this fact has important moral and political implications. Indeed, most are in agreement that animal sentience ought to constrain the actions of political institutions, limiting the harms that can be perpetrated against animals.

The primary aim of this book is to show that the political implications of animal sentience go even further than this. For this book argues that sentience establishes a moral equality and a shared set of rights amongst those creatures who possess it. Crucially, this worth and these rights create a duty on moral agents to establish and maintain a political order dedicated to their interests.

This book is devoted to sketching what this ‘sentientist politics’ might look like. It argues in favour of a ‘sentientist cosmopolitan democracy’: a global political system made up of overlapping local, national, regional and global communities comprised of human and non-human members who exist within shared ‘communities of fate’. Furthermore, the institutions of those communities should be democratic - that is to say, participative, deliberative and representative.

Finally, those institutions should include dedicated representatives of non-human animals whose job should be to translate the interests of animals into deliberations over what is in the public good for their communities.

Available at Oxford University Press

Animal Rights Without Liberation: Applied Ethics and Human Obligations (Columbia University Press, 2012)9780231158268

Alasdair Cochrane introduces an entirely new theory of animal rights grounded in their interests as sentient beings. He then applies this theory to different and underexplored policy areas, such as genetic engineering, pet-keeping, indigenous hunting, and religious slaughter.

In contrast to other proponents of animal rights, Cochrane claims that because most sentient animals are not autonomous agents, they have no intrinsic interest in liberty. As such, he argues that our obligations to animals lie in ending practices that cause their suffering and death and do not require the liberation of animals.

Cochrane’s “interest-based rights approach” weighs the interests of animals to determine which is sufficient to impose strict duties on humans. In so doing, Cochrane acknowledges that sentient animals have a clear and discernable right not to be made to suffer and not to be killed, but he argues that they do not have a prima facie right to liberty. Because most animals possess no interest in leading freely chosen lives, humans have no moral obligation to liberate them.

Moving beyond theory to the practical aspects of applied ethics, this pragmatic volume provides much-needed perspective on the realities and responsibilities of the human-animal relationship

Available at Columbia University Press

An Introduction to Animals and Political Theory (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010)

How should political communities govern their relations with animals? Are animals owed justice? What might justice for animals involve? Alasdair Cochrane introduces the most prominent schools in contemporary political theory - utilitarianism, liberalism, communitarianism, Marxism and feminism - and examines their implications for issues such as meat-eating, intensive agriculture, animal experimentation, religious slaughter and hunting.

An Introduction to Animals and Political Theory explores the debates and discusses controversies over what makes an entity worthy of justice: is it rationality, the ability to contribute to society, sentience, or something else? It also introduces and engages with debates about what our political obligations to animals might entail: is it simply not to cause them unnecessary suffering, or do we have much more demanding obligations not to kill, own, or even use non-human animals?

Available at Springer Link

Robert McKay

Killing Animals. With the Animal Studies Group (University of Illinois Press, 2006)

Though not often acknowledged openly, killing represents by far the most common form of human interaction with animals. Humans kill animals for food, for pleasure, to wear, and even as religious acts, yet despite the ubiquity of this killing, analysing the practice has generally remained the exclusive purview of animal rights advocates.

Killing Animals offers a corrective to this narrow focus by bringing together the insights of scholars from diverse backgrounds in the humanities, including art history, anthropology, intellectual history, philosophy, literary studies, and geography.

With killing representing the ultimate expression of human power over animals, the essays reveal the complexity of the phenomenon by exploring the extraordinary diversity in killing practices and the wide variety of meanings attached to them. They examine aspects of the role of animals in human societies, from the seventeenth century to the present day: their cultural manifestations, and how they have been represented.

Topics include hunting and baiting; slaughter practices and the treatment of feral and stray animals; animal death in art, literature and philosophy; and even animals that themselves become killers of humans.

Available at University of Illinois Press

John Miller

Walrus. With Louis Miller (Reaktion Press, 2014)

Known for its prominent tusks and distinctive whiskers, the walrus has often cropped up in contemporary culture: from the grandiloquent protagonist of Lewis Carroll’s poem ‘The Walrus and the Carpenter’, to The Beatles’ enigmatic pronouncement ‘I am the Walrus’. Walruses have also played a significant role in Arctic indigenous communities, where they have held a central place in traditional mythologies.

Walrus explores the intriguing and affecting history of an animal that remains on the frontline of contemporary conservation debates. Commercial walrus hunting was banned in the 1930s, and today only subsistence hunting is permitted, yet the mammal still faces an uncertain future. Shrinking pack-ice caused by global warming is causing serious problems for walrus herds, while the exploitation of arctic oil and gas resources puts further pressure on the animals.

This important book combines natural, cultural and environmental histories to offer a refreshing and wonderfully illustrated account of the much-loved mammal. Walrus foregrounds the ethical dilemmas they embody, such as the continuing and intensifying conflict between the developed world and indigenous interests, and the impact of global warming on arctic animals.

Available at Reaktion Press

Empire and the Animal Body: Violence, Identity and Ecology in Victorian Adventure Fiction (Anthem Press, 2012)

Empire and the Animal Body explores representations of exotic animals in Victorian adventure fiction, mainly in works by R. M. Ballantyne, G. A. Henty, G. M. Fenn, Paul du Chaillu, H. Rider Haggard and John Buchan. These primary texts are concerned with Southern and West Africa, India and what is now Indonesia in the period 1860-1910, an era which comprises imperial expansion, consolidation and the beginnings of imperial decline. 

Representations of exotic animals in such literary works generally revolve around portrayals of violence, either in big-game hunting or in the collection of scientific specimens, and draw on a range of literary sources, most notably romance, natural history writing and ‘penny dreadful’ fiction.

This study investigates how these texts’ depictions of forms of violence complicate the seemingly fundamental distinction of humans from animals, and undermine the ideological structures of imperial rule. Rather than an innate and hierarchical opposition, the relationship of humans with their animal others emerges in this context as a complex interplay of kinship and difference.

This argument both continues the postcolonial dismantling of empire’s logic of domination and develops the recentering of the nonhuman in environmentally focused criticism. Most vitally, it also signals the relation between these fields: the necessary interdependence of human and nonhuman interests, environmental activism and global social justice.

Available at Anthem Press

Rachel Murray

The Modernist Exoskeleton: Insects, War, Literary Form (Edinburgh University Press, 2020)

Argues for the importance of insects to modernism’s formal innovations.

Focusing on the writing of Wyndham Lewis, D. H. Lawrence, H. D. and Samuel Beckett, this book uncovers a shared fascination with the aesthetic possibilities of the insect body - its adaptive powers, distinct stages of growth and swarming formations.

Through a series of close readings, it proposes that the figure of the exoskeleton, which functions both as a protective outer layer and as a site of encounter, can enhance our understanding of modernism’s engagement with nonhuman life, as well as its questioning of the boundaries of the human.

Available at Edinburgh University Press