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Sunderland Repository records the research produced by the University of Sunderland including practice-based research and theses.

A “useful uselessness”: vegan geographies of bearing witness at the slaughterhouse gates

Lockwood, Alex (2021) A “useful uselessness”: vegan geographies of bearing witness at the slaughterhouse gates. In: Vegan Geographies. Lantern Books, New York. (In Press)

Item Type: Book Section


Founded in Toronto in 2010, the SAVE Movement is a growing grassroots vegan activist network of nearly two hundred autonomous groups in over twenty countries. Central to its activism is bearing witness to nonhuman animals as they are transported into slaughterhouses; attempts to relieve suffering momentarily (with water); and bringing awareness to the plight of nonhuman exploitation and commodification through video footage, imagery, and testimony, with the goal of convincing others to practice veganism. Critics have suggested such activism is “useless” in that it does not “save” the unique animals in the trucks. This chapter responds by drawing attention to the effects of the heightened encounters and embodied contacts that take place in the charged spaces outside the slaughterhouse gates. While critiques of activism are necessary to understand its contribution to the goal of ending nonhuman exploitation, this chapter argues these acts of bearing witness are, rather, “useful” practices in troubling the power relations that the particular spatial orientation of the slaughterhouse sets in place. The vigils politicize the logic of human domination of nonhuman others on the verges (often literally) between everyday life and the industrial locations of nonhuman bodily appropriation. Employing autoethnography and participation with SAVE activists at vigils, this chapter interrogates concepts of ethical responsibility to propose the idea of a “useful uselessness” in relation to animal activism, noting how it opens out the otherwise highly-controlled and overlooked spaces of material entanglement between human and nonhuman at the intersection of slaughterhouse and public way.

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Depositing User: Alex Lockwood


Item ID: 13390

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Date Deposited: 21 Apr 2021 10:35
Last Modified: 21 Apr 2021 10:45