Publication details

“So eager to get into the food chain” : Exploring agency in the representation of farm animals



Year of publication 2016
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description Language as a form of social practice plays a significant role in the sustainment of power relations, dominance and inequality between different groups of people (Fairclough 2001, 2003). Studies in the field of eco-linguistics (Stibbe 2001, 2012) have stressed that language practice also reflects and at the same time reinforces human attitude towards other species, enhancing the destructive behavior we often display towards them. The way animals are represented in language helps construe their social identity as inferior, object-like entities, which is crucial in manufacturing human consent to the cruel treatment of animals in the contemporary society (Stibbe 2012). In addition, language is commonly used to downplay, obscure or justify direct human involvement in – and thus responsibility for – animal suffering and death inherent in the institution of intensive farming (ibid.). Looking into linguistic accounts of human interactions with farm animals, this paper examines the role of grammar in the representation of human-animal relationships, focusing on the issue of transitivity and agency attribution. By analyzing news articles from several English-language periodicals as its primary data, the paper seeks to demonstrate that linguistic choices connected to transitivity, agency shifting and agency erasure are commonly employed in meeting two interrelated ends: concealing human responsibility for causing animal suffering within contemporary practices of intensive farming, and transferring the responsibility for complications arising from these practices to animals instead of people as their actual originators.
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