Cosmopolitanism in a Carnivorous World


This essay contributes to an emerging "animal turn" in political theory and International Relations by exploring the possibilities of a cosmopolitanism that is more attentive to human consumption practices involving bodily harm to and destruction of animals. Intertwining Jacques Derrida's work on hospitality and animals, Judith Shklar's insights on legalism and passive injustice, and studies on animal morality and emotion, I develop what I call "vegan cosmopolitanism." Vegan cosmopolitanism is a reimagining of cosmopolitanism that is inclusive of nonhuman animals within the global community and considers the consumption of animal products as a matter of cosmopolitan justice. The arguments in this essay seek to reorient cosmopolitanism as a non-anthropocentric perspective on global justice in pursuit of realizing the always-present possibilities of new and inventive ways of encountering and attending to the vulnerabilities of "other" living beings.


As we talked of freedom and justice one day for all, we sat down to steaks. I am eating misery, I thought.
—Alice Walker, Am I Blue? (1988, p. 8)

Around the globe, billions of animals are harmed and killed for their products every year. Although the nascent contours of an "animal turn" in political theory and International Relations have emerged, this work has not focused extensively on the global production of animal products and the ethics of consumption.[1] This lacuna obscures the extent to which the dinner plate is the site of most human interaction with animals such as cows, pigs, and chickens. Thus, while scholars such as Rafi Youatt (2014) offer a powerful critique of anthropocentrism in global politics, arguing that both humans and animals are increasingly "biosubjects," rendering humans as less-than-human and animals as easily killable, this work stops short of fully exploring the implications of biosubjectivity for the consumption of animal products.[2] Related work by Steve Cooke (2014) extends Kant's right of universal hospitality to animal strangers, whom Cooke argues deserve the dignity and moral respect that cosmopolitans afford human strangers. I press these arguments further, bridging veganism with cosmopolitanism vis-à-vis Derridean and Shklarian frameworks of unconditional openness and passive injustice to gain greater leverage on the question of how cosmopolitans might embrace animals as part of a global community. I argue that a cosmopolitanism inclusive of animals should be attuned to the violence of animal exploitation and connect theories of global interspecies communities with pragmatic ways to achieve these communities. Drawing from Jacques Derrida and Judith Shklar, I make a case for what I refer to as "vegan cosmopolitanism." Vegan cosmopolitanism is a re-imagining of cosmopolitanism that is inclusive of animals within the global moral community and considers the consumption of animal products as a matter of cosmopolitan justice.

This article proceeds as follows: After raising the prospect of the consumption of animal products as a matter of cosmopolitan justice and offering some clarifying definitions, I draw on Derrida's work on hospitality to suggest possibilities of an inventive cosmopolitanism inclusive of animals in a post-human global community. Next, I illustrate the political implications of Derrida's ideas about hospitality and openness in the context of his writings on the animal machine and violence towards animals, as well as ethological and anthropological studies on animal morality and emotion. I argue that this work entails a responsibility to attend to global animal vulnerability through alternative and self-critical consumption practices. I then draw upon Judith Shklar's concept of passive injustice to highlight the problems of legalism and inactive contributions to cruelty in a more-than-human cosmopolis. Lastly, I briefly consider the real-world possibilities of vegan cosmopolitanism.

Animals, Consumption, and Cosmopolitan Justice

Around the world, a variety of local and global organizations that see reducing the consumption of animal products as central to creating a more humane world have emerged. However, these organizations and their arguments conflict with rising demands for meat and other animal products throughout the world—demands which are expected to lead to increases in farmed animal production and atmospheric greenhouse gases (Tilman & Clark, 2014). If not consuming animal products can mitigate the plight of animals and the environment, then it follows that alternative consumption practices might be a reasonable duty of justice. Is the consumption of animal products a matter of cosmopolitan justice?

The term "cosmopolitan" originates from the Greek word kosmopolitês, which means "citizen of the world" (Delanty, 2009, p. 20). Though there are many variations of cosmopolitanism, a central feature is that justice should extend beyond state borders to all human beings. All humans are members of a global community; therefore, each person deserves dignity and in some sense moral equality. Cosmopolitanism might be seen relatedly as an orientation towards the world that embraces human unity and commonality.[3] Encapsulating these ideas, Martha Nussbaum (1994) defines a cosmopolitan as someone who is dedicated to the community of humankind. This dedication involves an obligation to reduce and ideally end suffering among distant strangers (Brock, 2009).

While generally focusing on humans, some cosmopolitans have considered the place of animals. Nussbaum (2006, para. 32) notes that "it seems wrong to think that only human life has dignity" and "a truly global justice requires…looking around the world at the other sentient beings with whose lives our own are inextricably and complexly intertwined." What might a cosmopolitanism inclusive of animals look like? Might it include obligations to animals both near and far? Might these obligations include a negative duty to assist animals by refraining from consuming their products? In other words, might veganism be central to imagining a post-human cosmopolitanism?

While there are many different meanings of veganism, ethical-political veganism is often understood as an effort to recognize animals as "members of the moral community" and a "rejection of the commodity status of nonhuman animals, the notion that animals have only external value, and the notion that animals have less moral value than do humans" (Francione, 2012, p. 174; p. 182). To those ends, it is "a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose" (The Vegan Society, n.d.). More than a dietary choice, veganism is an ethical-political commitment to the idea that animals (like humans) have an interest in continuing to live and live freely, and should thus not be harmed, exploited, or killed (Hooley & Nobis, 2015). There are, however, situations in which some vegans recognize the legitimacy of killing animals. Elisa Aaltola (2005), for instance, argues that a contextual model of animal ethics, which many vegans might agree with, would not necessarily denounce killing an animal if there are no other ways of fulfilling nutritional requirements or if an animal presents immediate harm. More broadly, veganism might be understood as a commitment to the idea that animals are intrinsically valuable; therefore, the consumption of animal products is generally morally unjustified.

This article reflects on the connections between cosmopolitanism and veganism in developing vegan cosmopolitanism. As I will argue below, this is an articulation of cosmopolitanism emphasizing unconditional hospitality to animals and a responsibility to protect animals from global systems of cruelty and consumption. Drawing on the work of Derrida and Shklar, I show how vegan cosmopolitanism reimagines the meaning of global political community and global justice, which has important implications for how we might think about and live with animals.

Derrida, Hospitality, and Cosmopolitan Justice

In theorizing obligations to distant strangers, many cosmopolitans embrace a view of cosmopolitanism that centers on hospitality, a concept that is central to Kant's cosmopolitanism in A Perpetual Peace.[4] Kant (1991, p. 172) is interested in the possibilities of an "international community" where "the earth's peoples" may engage in "active relations" with each other without "being treated by foreigners as enemies." Hopeful of "peaceful mutual relations" among border-crossing strangers, Kant (1991, p. 106) theorizes a more cooperative world, envisioning a cosmopolitan right of strangers as hospitality. This hospitality is a universal right to temporary visitation—the "right of a stranger not to be treated with hostility when he arrives on someone else's territory" (Kant, 1991, p. 105). The obligation of states to accept strangers is thus a voluntary duty, and is conditional on the stranger behaving in a "peaceable manner" (Kant, 1991, p. 106).

Recently, Cooke (2014) has argued that Kant's hospitality can and should be extended to animals. Like Cooke, I press against the humanist limits of hospitality, though I ground this advancement in a Derridean account of cosmopolitanism that focuses on (1) the questioning of conditionality and exclusionary practices and (2) the futurity of hospitable practices that over time lead to possibilities of greater openness to strangers, including animal strangers. This section looks to Derrida's views on hospitality as an initial step towards developing the argument for vegan cosmopolitanism, as his insights serve as a useful vantage point for thinking through questions about human-animal relations and alimentary violence towards animals. His perspective on cosmopolitanism uniquely centers on questioning boundaries of exclusion and points to progressive future hospitality practices to come, practices to be amended and reconsidered in imagining a more responsive and responsible world.

Derrida (2000b, p. 71) criticizes Kantian hospitality as "a matter of the law"—overly conditional and legal. In his lecture on the "Foreigner Question," Derrida elaborates on these issues and introduces hospitality as a paradox or "aporia" (Derrida, 2000b, p. 65). In "Force of Law," Derrida defines an aporia, which is central to his larger philosophical inquiry, as "something that does not allow passage. Aporia is a nonpath" (2002b, p. 244). He describes the aporia of hospitality as follows:

It is as though hospitality were the impossible: as though the law of hospitality defined this very impossibility, as if it were only possible to transgress it, as though the law of absolute, unconditional, hyperbolical hospitality, as though the categorical imperative of hospitality commanded that we transgress all the laws (in the plural) of hospitality, namely, the conditions, the norms, the rights and the duties that are imposed on hosts and hostesses, on the men or women who give a welcome as well as the men or women who receive it (Derrida, 2000b, pp. 75-76).

This aporia is an incongruity between what Derrida refers to as The law of hospitality and the laws of hospitality (Derrida (2000b, p. 77, emphasis in the original). He describes the former as unlimited hospitality (acceptance without limit) and the latter as the rights and duties (legal conditions, i.e. laws) that accompany The law. Hospitality is aporetic in the sense that conditioning hospitality erodes it, though hospitality cannot be exercised without conditionality. The law of hospitality is thus an impossibility, and the laws of hospitality, which make The law impossible, are dependent on The law. This is why Derrida argues that Kant

destroys at its source the very possibility of what he posits and determines in this way. And that is due to the juridicality of his discourse, to the inscription in a law of this principle of hospitality whose infinite idea should resist the law itself—or at any rate go beyond it at the point where it governs it. (Derrida, 2000b, p. 71)

In other words, the laws and limitations of hospitality practices abrade the essentiality—universal openness and unconditionality—of hospitality.

Derrida draws attention to the impossibility of absolute openness as a means to renegotiate limits on openness and retrieve cosmopolitan hospitality from becoming a series of conditionalities. In demanding that "unconditional hospitality must remain open without horizon of expectation, without anticipation, to any surprise visitation," we are called to imagine new configurations of hospitality (Derrida, 2000a, p. 17). There is ethical force in the promise embedded within the concept of unconditional hospitality, and thinking through and aiming for unlimited openness allows sharper criticism of existing hospitalities and drives the exploration of more openness to, and urgent responsibility for, the suffering of others. Thus, while Derrida recognizes the political realities and practical necessities of conditioning hospitality, nevertheless he urges moving towards and thinking through unconditionality as a means of fostering more hospitality and openness to the Other.[5]

Cosmopolitanism rooted in unconditional hospitality is therefore progressively attuned to the unplanned and open pursuit of justice even if it opens up the possibility of danger. Derrida remarks that

this impossibility is necessary.…It is necessary that [hospitality] exceed every regulated procedure in order to open itself to what always risks being perverted.…This is necessary, this possible hospitality to the worst is necessary so that good hospitality can have a chance, the chance of letting the other come, the yes of the other no less than the yes to the other (Derrida, 1999a, p. 35, emphasis in the original).

This impossible cosmopolitanism is bound up with an optimism rooted in the possibility of continually reconfigurable practices that might culminate in a future hospitality that is less exclusionary and less violent.[6] Derrida's vision of an ever-unfolding cosmopolitanism opens up the limits of what a post-human global community might be, requiring the seemingly impossible to make this community possible. Animated by unlimited hospitality, we might therefore begin to work towards a future cosmopolitanism that is more open to human bonds with and less violent conduct towards animals. On this path, we might chip away at the enclosures of humanism to become more peacefully connected to a broader, interspecies world.

Derrida's hospitality thus provides a useful foundation for a cosmopolitanism inclusive of animals. Though Cooke (2014, p. 936) views Kantian hospitality—which involves peaceful engagement, openness, and acceptance of difference—as a basis for cosmopolitan animal rights, Derrida's impulse towards the continual defiance of conditionality on openness and push for "genuine innovation" in the "duty of hospitality" (2001, p. 4) is perhaps a more useful basis for which to move beyond anthropocentric cosmopolitan hospitalities. As Nussbaum (2006) discusses, Kant's view about rationality and his concern for rational rather than sentient life would have to be fundamentally modified to form a basis for ethical duties to animals. Derrida appears much more open to a cosmopolitanism inclusive of animals, even hinting at an infinite receptivity to animal strangers: "Let us say yes to who or what turns up…whether or not the new arrival is the citizen of another country, a human, animal" (2000b, p. 77). Derrida's hospitality does not rely on Kantian-style rationality, universal rules, or top-down moral orders; rather, it is attentive to the problematics of circumscribed engagement with others, and enlivens possibilities of breaching boundaries and forming new communities that are responsive to the suffering of all of those with whom we share the earth.

Animals, Violence, and Cosmopolitan Futurity

A central problem highlighted by Derrida is the issue of human versus animal worlds and "the Cartesian tradition of the animal-machine that exists without language and without the ability to respond" (2003, p. 146). Derrida takes animal language and animal worlds seriously, noting how "animal societies" are inclusive of "refined, complicated organizations, with hierarchical structures, attributes of authority and power, phenomena of symbolic credit, so many things that are so often attributed to and so naively reserved for so-called human culture in opposition to nature" (2009, p. 15, emphasis in original). These ontological provocations serve to destabilize our basic beliefs about lives that matter in the world, and invite us to rethink the relationships among all that live and die around us all of the time. Along these same lines, Derrida notes how animals and humans "inhabit the same world, the same objective world even if they do not have the same experience of the objectivity of the object," but that "animals and humans do not inhabit the same world" as "the community of the world is always constructed" (2009, pp. 8-9). There are thus not singular human/animal worlds with fixed boundaries; rather, human/animal worlds and relations are multiple and fluid. Exploring animal worlds leads us to see how animals speak, respond, and experience death. The import of these ontological claims is the urging of new ethical-political-hospitable responsibilities in human-animal encounters. While Matthew Calarco (2007) suggests that Derrida's work on hospitality was not exclusive to humans, relatively little work thus far has explored the specific connections between Derrida's writings on cosmopolitanism and animal ethics or brought these connections to bear on cosmopolitan consumption practices.

While Derrida does not clearly elaborate on extending cosmopolitan hospitality to animals, his questioning of humanism within the larger context of his oeuvre, his ideas about unconditionality and the futurity of cosmopolitan practices, and his exploration of the "question of the animal" suggest this possibility.[7] Taken together, his work alludes to the future promise of a vegan cosmopolitanism to come. In this section, I wish to draw attention to two central convictions in Derrida's later work as a means of assembling the foundations of a vegan cosmopolitan: (1) the problematics of speciesism and (2) the monstrosity of violence towards animals, namely, the violence of the factory farm. I will posit that these convictions suggest a responsibility to attend to global animal vulnerability through a self-critical "commitment to nonviolence and the abolition of exploitation"—a commitment that is the heart of veganism (Francione, 2008, p. 16).

Speciesism in the Cosmopolis

While hierarchical boundaries between humans and animals are often seen as natural, they have been contested throughout history. For example, members of the Bad River Ojibwe Tribe in Wisconsin, USA recently protested a new law permitting hunting for wolves. For Tribe members like Essie Leoso, "Killing a wolf [was] like killing a brother" (Safina, 2015, p. 177). Such tension between inclinations for connectivity and killing have pervaded the history of human-animal relations, as animals have inspired both profound admiration and antagonism. For members of the Bad River Ojibwe Tribe, the wolf and human inhabit the world together, and are part of a shared moral universe—a cosmopolis—inclusive of humans and animals. Questions about killing wolves include working through assumptions about moral hierarchies, capacities, agency, human superiority, and boundaries between humanity and animality. Derrida's work is helpful in scrutinizing these assumptions.

Derrida does not explicitly consider the question of whether humans and animals inhabit a cosmopolis, but his interrogation of the ascribed boundaries between humans and animals and the assumed lack of moral capacities among animals used by humans to dominate other species raise this prospect. For instance, in "The Animal that Therefore I Am," Derrida confronts the supposed borders between animals and humans while his cat gazes on his naked body (2002a, pp. 372-373). He describes the gaze of his cat as infinitely and morally complex: "At the same time innocent and cruel perhaps, perhaps sensitive and impassive, good and bad, uninterpretable, unreadable, undecidable, abyssal and secret. Wholly other, like the (every) other that is (every bit) other found in such intolerable proximity that I do not as yet feel I am justified or qualified to call it my fellow, even less my brother" (Derrida, 2002a, p. 381). In these heuristic musings, Derrida invites us to contemplate the meanings and morals bound up in what we call "the human" and "the animal," challenging the history of philosophical thought that has separated humans and animals into different ethical orders on the basis that animals do "not hav[e] knowledge of their nudity" and are "without consciousness of good and evil" (2002a, p. 373). These invitations and challenges blur human/animal borderlines while not erasing them, and urge a more reflective orientation towards the ways in which the emotional and moral lives of animals are rich, expansive, and complex. Derrida thus resists the accepted moral hierarchies encompassing human-animal relations as a means to reconsider the very concepts of "human" and "animal" and renegotiate the ethics of human-animal relations. His interrogations suggest possibilities of a broad and flexible cosmopolitan world inclusive of animals. As I argue below, Derrida's exploration of the moral complexity of animals serves to unravel "speciesism" while fashioning possibilities of interspecies hospitality.

Variations of speciesism have pervaded the history of philosophical thinking about animals and human-animal relations. While classical speciesism (e.g. Aristotle, Descartes) fixated on rationality, linguistic ability, and ensoulment, "neo-speciesism" has focused on the legitimacy and morality of loyalty and solidarity in favoring the interests of the human species over the interests of members of animal species (Bernstein, 2004). Bernstein does not specify particular philosophers as embracing neo-speciesism; rather, he is referring to a relatively recent tendency in philosophy that posits collective human values of loyalty and solidarity as having a particularly special moral status which are used to justify privileging human interests over animal interests. In its many forms, speciesism is often described as dubious and discriminatory (Horta, 2010). Peter Singer, for example, defines it as "a prejudice or attitude of bias toward the interests of one's own species and against those of members of another species" (2002, p. 6). British psychologist Richard Ryder (2015), who coined the term in 1970, suggests that the term refers to assumptions of human superiority which are often used to justify animal exploitation. Speciesism therefore refers to beliefs or practices of human discrimination or exploitation against members of non-human species.

Contemporary ecologists' and anthropologists' observations of complex emotional and moral lives among animals provide an empirical impetus for rethinking speciesism. Frans de Waal argues that many in the "social sciences and the humanities" have a "mindset that humans are absolutely special," but "to biologists we are animals.…Our brains are bigger and we certainly have a more powerful computer than any other animal, but the computer is not fundamentally different" (Paulson, 2013). While biologists such as Darwin long ago recognized similarities between certain human and animal emotional expressions, recent advances in the scientific study of animals have increasingly challenged scholars to rethink speciesist assumptions (de Waal, 2011).

Several studies indicate moral capacities and moral aspirations for fairness among a variety of animals (e.g. Bekoff, 2002; Brosnan, Schiff, & de Waal, 2005). Given such findings, Paul Shapiro suggests that

the reluctance of many to acknowledge that some animals may be moral agents and have obligations reflects a tendency to underestimate the mental lives of nonhuman animals. However, available empirical evidence for animal morality strongly suggests that being human is not a necessary condition for being humane. (2006, pp. 370-371)

That animals exhibit compassion and courage as well as many other moral virtues and vices often considered human requires a rethinking of human moral superiority within cosmopolitanism. Indeed, in Derrida's view:

none of the conventionally accepted limits between the so-called human living being and the so-called animal one, none of the oppositions, none of the supposedly linear and indivisible boundaries, resist a rational deconstruction—whether we are talking about language, culture, social symbolic networks, technicity or work, even the relationship to death and to mourning…so many 'capacities' of which the 'animal' (a general singular noun!) is said so dogmatically to be bereft, impoverished. (2005, p. 151)

The philosophical position that morality, knowledge of death, and the use of language cleanly separate humans from animals is thus not so apparent and deserves scrutiny. With regard to death, Derrida criticizes the notion "that only man or only Dasein has an experiential relation to death, to dying…to his own death…whereas the animal, that other living being that we call the animal, perishes but never dies, has no relation worthy of the name to death" (2009, pp. 306-307). With regard to language, Derrida finds the idea that "man is the only speaking being" to be "highly problematic," and calls for "reinscrib[ing] language in a network of possibilities" and "tak[ing] into account scientific knowledge about the complexity of 'animal languages'" (1991, p. 116).

While scholars such as neuroanthropologist Terrence Deacon (1998) study important divisions between humans and animals in terms of symbolic communication, symbolic representation, and intentional communication, new and important research is emerging that explores possibilities of cognitively complex intentions in animal communication (e.g. Townsend et al., 2016). Recent studies also demonstrate the complexity of animals' orientations towards death. Wolves, for instance, might be understood to die with dignity and on their own terms (Safina, 2015, pp. 144-150). Frans de Waal's work on primates shows that they are "very strongly affected by the death of others. They will not eat for days after one of their group members has died" (quoted in Paulson, 2013). Anthropologist Barbara King's (2013) research similarly provides evidence to support the hypothesis that animals—including elephants, chimpanzees, dolphins, cats, dogs, and birds—grieve the loss of others. While noting that grief among humans is unique in the anticipation of death and the distinctive trait of grieving others whom we have never met, she suggests that grief might be just as profound among many animals.

Derrida (2002a) sees animal worlds as vast and as irreducible as the worlds of humans. He notes that

there is no animal in the general singular, separated from man by a single indivisible limit. We have to envisage the existence of 'living creatures' whose plurality cannot be assembled within the single figure of an animality that is simply opposed to humanity. This does not of course mean ignoring or effacing everything that separates humankind from the other animals (Derrida, 2002a, p. 415).

Derrida's criticism of speciesism allows us to more readily envision a cosmopolitanism inclusive of interspecies justice. While there are obvious differences between animals and humans (as well as numerous differences within animals and within humans) this heterogeneity is not a sufficient reason for exclusion from moral communities. For cosmopolitans, this confounds the (often implicit) assumption that humans and animals occupy separate worlds and, consequently, separate ethical spaces. Derrida's perspective on human-animal boundaries along with research on animal emotion and morality are a call for rethinking the connections between "human" and "animal" worlds without collapsing them entirely, and for reimagining the political and ethical responsibilities in these entangled worlds.

Animal Machines in the Cosmopolis

Recognizing the complexities of animal morality and emotion helps us to come to terms with the need to cultivate a better way of relating to animals in order to create the conditions of a more peaceful human-animal global community. A next step is to consider specific ways in which we might engage with animals in order to construct this community. While there are many possibilities, I turn now to the issue of human domination with regard to factory farm animals. Such a focus falls into the category of what Cooke (2014) refers to as the avoidance of harm rather than positive duties. While Cooke argues that extending cosmopolitan hospitality to animals might entail making "limited accommodations" to non-threatening animals as well as other transborder positive obligations (2014, pp. 937-938), I prioritize a negative obligation of not consuming animal products, as the consumption of these products involves some of the most violent forms of supremacy over animals.

In Animal Machines, Ruth Harrison asked, "Have we the right to treat living creatures solely as food converting machines?" (2013, p. 37) Harrison coined the term "factory farm" in the 1960s to describe the system of large-scale intensive animal production techniques, and suggested that these techniques were exploitative and physically harmful. While it originally emerged in the United States in the 1930s, the factory farm model "has begun to spread to all corners of the world, especially the developing world" (Pew Commission, 2008, p. 9).

Cosmopolitans might productively widen their perspectives to illuminate the harms of factory farms in global food production practices. Though often invisible, factory farm animals are in our midst, and we can choose to see them, to feel their gaze. Justice necessitates this seeing, looking, and being seen. Derrida's analysis of the animal's gaze is of importance here:

The animal is there before me, there next to me, there in front of me—I who am (following) after it. And also, therefore, since it is before me, it is behind me. It surrounds me. And from the vantage of this being-there-before-me it can allow itself to be looked at, no doubt, but also—something that philosophy perhaps forgets, perhaps being this calculated forgetting itself—it can look at me. It has its point of view regarding me. (2002a, p. 380)

A vegan cosmopolitan perspective contends that we do not look out at factory farm animals; instead, we look at factory farm animals from within a shared space as members of a community, and we are also looked upon by these animals. Such looking does not require inhabiting the same physical-territorial space; rather, it involves cognitive and affective recognition of how these animals live and die. In this sense, we are looked upon by animals in allowing ourselves to imaginatively consider their gaze. As members of a global community, recognizing the lives and deaths of factory farmed animals from the United States to Latin America and elsewhere is a crucial task. Such recognition is a necessary step "to awaken us to our responsibilities and our obligations with respect to the living in general" (Derrida, 2002a, p. 395).

Derrida's insights clarify the severity of the factory farm for cosmopolitanism, describing the factory farm as a "spectacle of…industrial slaughter" (2004, p. 71) that is in part a consequence of the humanism underlying and producing the human/animal boundaries within various societies around the world.[8] Given these destructive practices, Derrida (2002, p. 416) questions whether we should presume that "there are only crimes against humanity" and considers the factory farm to be genocidal. Derrida depicts the factory farm as

monstrous, outside of every supposed norm of a life proper to animals that are thus exterminated by means of their continued existence or even their overpopulation. As if, for example, instead of throwing people into ovens or gas chambers (let's say Nazi) doctors and geneticists had decided to organize the overproduction and overgeneration of Jews, gypsies, and homosexuals by means of artificial insemination, so that, being more numerous and better fed, they could be destined in always increasing numbers for the same hell. (2002, p. 394)

Elsewhere, Derrida references genocide in calling for

reducing…the conditions of breeding, slaughter, treatment, en masse, and what I hesitate (only in order not to abuse the inevitable associations) to call a genocide.…I used this word genocide to designate the operation consisting, in certain cases, in gathering together hundreds of thousands of beasts every day, sending them to the slaughterhouse, and killing them en masse. (2004, p. 73)

While one may object to Derrida's use of the term "genocide," the intense violence within factory farms is indisputable. Derrida notes that "we know this, and no one would dare to doubt it" (2004, p. 70). At issue is not necessarily knowledge but responsibility.

Yet knowledge of factory farming is central to responsibility. While many do not doubt the pervasiveness of animal suffering, factory farm practices are largely out of view. Journalists and activists regularly disseminate information about these practices, though it is unclear to what extent these practices are widely known. Knowledge about factory farms is also often contested or downplayed. Largely concealed, we do not physically encounter the living and dying animal—only the consumable product. Out of view, factory farmed animals are in a sense "unreal," existing on the margins of the global moral community. If these animals are part of this community, then fostering mindfulness and renegotiating the limits of violent human-animal interactions within this community represent important cosmopolitan endeavors.

Consider the following extreme confinement practices in factory farms: Pregnant pigs live in gestation crates about the size of their bodies, and are thus unable to move. They lie on crate floors that include slots to allow urine and feces to fall beneath the crates, which often causes respiratory problems due to ammonia from excrement. Similarly, hens "are fattened in huge, dirty, cramped sheds and deprived of everything that makes life worth living. They can hardly stretch their wings or legs and will never be able to roam" (Animal Aid UK, n.d.). In an American factory farm, Solotaroff describes the life of a typical egg-laying chicken in the following terms:

You see and smell nothing from the moment of your birth but the shit coming down through the open slats of the battery cages above you. It coats your feathers and becomes a second skin; by the time you're plucked from your cage for slaughter, your bones and wings breaking in the grasp of harried workers, you look less like a hen than an oil-spill duck, blackened by years of droppings. Your eyes tear constantly from the fumes of your own urine, you wheeze and gasp like a retired miner, and you're beset every second of the waking day by mice and plaguelike clouds of flies. (2013)

These and other features of the factory farm such as the debeaking of chickens, continual impregnation of dairy cows, separation of cow mothers and their calves shortly after birth, dehorning and tail docking of cows without anesthesia, and the robotic milking of dairy cows are at odds with how members of a cosmopolis should be treated.[9] Factory farm animals might rightfully be seen as victims of voracious alimentary and capitalist human behavior, and a cosmopolitanism inclusive of these animals suggests it is a duty of justice to end this behavior.

Derrida's writings on factory farming challenge the idea that these practices are somehow beyond the horizon of cosmopolitan concern. Vegan cosmopolitanism suggests that we have obligations to refuse to take part in an agricultural productivist system in which animals are frequently mistreated to lower production costs. Within a vegan cosmopolis, an animal has value beyond the revenue or satisfaction that her or his body can generate for the producer or consumer. In this cosmopolis, animals are more than exploitable bodies/commodities whose fates are to become consumable goods for humans. Though Derrida never explicitly calls for animal liberation, his work implies the possibility of human/animal communities and a human responsibility to lessen violence towards animals.

While Derrida's work is useful for assembling an argument for vegan cosmopolitanism, there is, of course, the fact that Derrida was not a vegetarian, and was skeptical of proposing any general rules or guidelines for human conduct towards animals (Rasmussen, 2011, pp. 131-132). In an interview with Elizabeth Roudinesco ("For What Tomorrow"), for example, Derrida states that he does not believe in "absolute vegetarianism" or "in the existence of the non-carnivore in general" (Derrida & Roudinesco, 2004, pp. 67-68). In an interview with Jean-Luc Nancy ("Eating Well"), Derrida claims that "Vegetarians, too, partake of animals, even of men" (Derrida, 1991, p. 112). Derrida's assertions are entwined with arguments about subjectivity more broadly, and how we all—whether carnivorous or vegetarian—participate in the symbolic eating of others. Vegetarians are thus implicated in the inevitable "eating" of other humans in terms of assimilating and appropriating others. In "Eating Well," Derrida simultaneously contests the subject's boundaries and problematizes vegetarianism, suggesting that "the moral question is thus not, nor has it ever been: should one eat or not eat, eat this and not that…but…how…should one eat well (bien manger)?" (1991, p. 112) David Wood criticizes Derrida's arguments by locating vegetarianism within the deconstruction tradition which Derrida was central in forming, arguing that "deconstruction is vegetarianism" (1999, p. 33). Wood's claim is that while vegetarianism can be a "symbolic substitute for unlimited…responsibility" or serve to comfort one's conscience, it can also be a "powerful, practical, multidimensional transformation of our broader political engagement" (1999, p. 32). Vegetarianism or veganism is a deconstructive move by destabilizing hierarchical relations of power in eating events and the supposed proper relation between humans and animals. Wood is disappointed in Derrida's downplaying of the real violence of eating animal flesh, evading the political role of eating in general, and avoiding the connections between deconstruction and vegetarianism.

In any case, it is unnecessary for Derrida to be vegetarian or vegan in order for vegan cosmopolitanism to make sense. As Matthew Calarco notes, "Derrida is not our pastor or physician, he should not serve as our guide to eating well" (2004, p. 197). Still, Calarco raises a thorny issue with regard to deconstruction and eating, which is that "the question of eating well cannot be decided once and for all" (2004, p. 195). Indeed, deconstruction has practical import for vegetarian ethics, as it is imperative to interrupt the good consciousness of vegetarians, who also "consume and use a whole host of products that involve the killing of animals" (Calarco, 2004, p. 194). For vegetarianism to be deconstructive, continual interrogation is necessary or else it "risks stalling the question of eating well and collapsing into a self-assured form of good conscience" (Calarco, 2004, p. 195).

In this sense, vegan cosmopolitanism should not be a rendering of a cosmopolitanism chasing closure; rather, it should remain open to possibilities that might deal more effectively with concerns about eating and human-animal communities. What might this mean? Are there possibilities beyond critiquing the risks of a self-assured virtuous conscience? Are there possibilities beyond acknowledging the ways in which our existence is always tainted by the blood of others? Perhaps openness might also entail a willingness to take the intersecting issues of racial privilege, global class struggles, and food more seriously. Cosmopolitanism more generally needs to attend to the manifold ways in which racial and socioeconomic marginalization emerge, and vegan cosmopolitanism should focus on improving the accessibility of healthy and affordable food in poor communities, seeking to end the exploitation of immigrant workers in food industries, and pushing for living wages around the globe. In many ways, these issues interconnect with veganism, global justice, and human and non-human liberation.

Another focus could include Donaldson & Kymlicka's (2011; 2015) turn to positive rights and widening the Animal Rights movement to emphasize issues beyond consumption (e.g. habitat destruction and animal management). They argue that pushing local and national political institutions to deal with habitat destruction, for instance, would help "create communities of interspecies justice that support those [vegan] beliefs and desires, and connect them to broader conceptions of, and strategies for, social and institutional change" (Donaldson & Kymlicka 2015, p. 53). However, while such moves would certainly be beneficial, recent trends discussed below suggest that it might be premature to consider an Animal Rights focus on veganism as a failure. In any case, taking interspecies communities seriously makes it impossible to not at some level concern ourselves with how humans go about eating animals, and, to this end, vegan cosmopolitanism is an open exploration for a more productive way of attending to our relations with animals in the hope of building a less violent interspecies global community. This searching pushes us to make decisions about eating and using animals for their products while remaining open to other problematizations and possibilities and scrutinizing our decisions. Though decisions come from grappling with knowledge, information, and analysis, at some point decisions must "go beyond knowledge" to make a "leap;" such leaping "is the condition of responsibility" (Derrida, 2002, pp. 66, 73). Indeed, Derrida emphasizes connections among deconstruction, responsibility, justice, and leaping, insisting that "even though deconstruction is endless, the injunction to intervene, to take responsibility is here and now absolutely urgent. You can't wait. So, deconstruction is endless, but you have to respond here and now to the leap" (1999b, p. 281). Vegan cosmopolitan represents such a leap to challenge hegemonic anthropocentrism.

Cruelty, Passive Injustice, and Consumption in the Cosmopolis

While many philosophical perspectives denounce cruelty, "putting cruelty first for its affront against our common humanity may be distinctively cosmopolitan" (Lu, 2000, p. 225). With the exception of Catherine Lu, very little cosmopolitan theory has grappled with Judith Shklar's work on cruelty and passive injustice. Lu suggests that envisioning the suffering of others as injustice rather than misfortune is a defining difference between cosmopolitans and other International Relations theorists more inclined to a "resigned acceptance of a world of suffering" and therefore "more likely to commit passive injustice" (2000, p. 262).

Despite their numerous differences, Shklar and Derrida are both concerned with human cruelty and the possibilities of justice in a profoundly unjust world. While Derrida pushes the limits of our imagination, seeking a justice informed by the future of imagined promises of a more just world, Shklar is perhaps more attentive to political alternatives that are informed by the practice of actual politics. Both, however, are opposed to reliance on the law and legalism as a means to achieve a more just world. Like Derrida, Shklar is skeptical of "supra-political agents" and a "politics that revolves around the decisions and responsibilities of politicians" (Forrester, 2012, p. 254.) Shklar's focus on cruelty, passive injustice, and pragmatics provides a beneficial supplement to a Derridean approach to a cosmopolitanism inclusive of animals.

In The Faces of Injustice, Shklar (1990) distinguishes misfortune from injustice in order to highlight the problematics of passive injustice. She broadens the scope of culpability for suffering, noting that "the unjust are not only those who benefit directly from unjust acts but those who shut their eyes to the injustice that prevails in their midst" (p. 42). In theorizing the difference between misfortune and injustice, Shklar suggests the distinction is largely related to the extent to which societies perceive necessity, inevitability, and legality. Discussing the negative effects of free-market capitalism, for instance, she notes how these effects might be understood as "natural," or "inescapable;" hence these effects become categorized and naturalized as misfortune rather than injustice. The former is anti-political while the latter demands thoughtfulness and political action.

The logic of perceived necessity is similarly anti-political. Shklar observes how events, practices, or forces which are potentially harmful, albeit commonly perceived as necessary, lead observers (citizens and government officials alike) to claim that "it is absurd to complain of injustice" (1990, p. 78). She writes that "necessity has always been the favorite word of foreign policy specialists," and logics of necessity in the form of "manifest destiny" rendered military adventurism in Mexico, Cuba, and the Philippines as politically necessary action (p. 74). The loss of innocent life in these wars was construed as misfortune, not injustice, and consequently did not demand thoughtfulness or political energy to prevent suffering and death. Animals suffering for their products for humans might rightfully be seen as injustice, not misfortune. Such suffering for consumable goods is generally neither a necessity nor an inevitability.

Likewise, while many factory farm practices might be within the boundaries of the law, these practices are far from any reasonable ethics. In Shklar's terms, an acceptance of such practices within legal boundaries is symptomatic of legalism, which is "the ethical attitude that holds moral conduct to be a matter of rule following, and moral relationships to consist of duties and rights determined by rules" (1964, p. 1). In Derrida's terms, The law of hospitality should not be supplanted with the laws of hospitality. Rather than facilitating animal justice, legalism often enables us more easily to escape questions about passive injustice to animals. While advancements in animal welfare legislation are laudable and necessary, such attempts should not to be confused with justice. "Law is not justice" (Derrida, 2002b, p. 244).

It is tempting to point to the visible agents of injustice, such as those directly involved in factory farm systems; however, it is inconsistent with cosmopolitanism to look away from the inactive contributors, including ourselves (Shklar, 1990, p. 40). In the language of Derrida's infinite responsibility, "we are also responsible for our lack of attention and for our carelessness, for what we do neither intentionally nor freely, indeed, for what we do unconsciously—since this is never without significance" (1999a, p. 108). Shklar calls for heightened attention, and argues that "when we can alleviate suffering, whatever its cause, it is passively unjust to stand by and do nothing" (1990, p. 80). These ideas are foundational to a vegan cosmopolitanism, which commits us to an awareness that the animals suffering in factory farm conditions are suffering as a result of injustice carried out by us, even if we are not the ones directly inflicting the harm. Our passive injustice is rooted in our consumption practices.

Repugnance, Environmental Concerns, and Signaling

Is there any reason to believe that vegan cosmopolitanism is more than a fanciful abstraction? Is there any association to the empirical world, or is there an unbridgeable disconnection? While recognizing that carnivorous practices are here to stay for some time, this section briefly explores ways in which vegan cosmopolitanism coheres in real-world trends and practices. I center this discussion on (1) growing repugnance to killing animals for food, (2) a burgeoning recognition of the negative effects of the consumption of animal products on the environment, and (3) social signaling of repugnance and environmental concerns. Taken together, these trends, practices, and possibilities suggest reasons for a "pragmatic faith" in vegan cosmopolitanism.[10]

With increasing attention to the globalization of factory farms, there is the likelihood of rising repugnance to killing animals for food. Repugnance is an important emotional response that might facilitate an openness to alternative ways of thinking and living. It is often vital to the creation of new norms and laws. While norms are sometimes codified in law and enforced legally, normative behavior is also regulated though social penalties in the form of negative emotional responses such as repugnance. The repetitive enactment of repugnance in and through formal and informal social relations might lead to the emergence of vegan cosmopolitan norms.

Relevant to the economics of vegan cosmopolitanism, market transactions are influenced by repugnance. The effects of repugnance on these transactions are not limited to logics of safeguarding consumers or animals, and may take the shape of legal protections or the affective disciplining of social conduct. For example, economist and Nobel Prize winner Alvin Roth (2007) notes how a California law prohibiting killing horses for meat was not meant to protect consumers or horses; rather, it was an expression of repugnance to the sale of horsemeat for human consumption. Roth (2007) discusses a range of market transactions to suggest how repugnance shapes individual and collective choices over time and space through the creation of new norms. Of importance here is how normative understandings of "cruelty" are challenged and change over time; recognizing new norms about animal cruelty, Roth predicts that markets for animal products will likely become repugnant (Kim, 2014). In the terms of Derridean hospitality, the practical consequence of rethinking limits of conscionable human-animal relations might be a taming of carnivorous tendencies. While repugnance will by no means be universal, Roth forecasts that veganism rooted in repugnance will increasingly gain traction locally, regionally, and globally. Shifting ideas of animals as not simply food but as part of an ecological and moral community might not only diminish the value of animal goods but might also undermine the very idea that animal products are in fact "goods" to be used and consumed.

Beyond repugnance at using animals for their products, environmental concerns might also shift global attitudes against the consumption of animal products and foster a more peaceful human-animal global community. A 2010 UN report stated that Western dietary preferences for meat and dairy are unsustainable, and scientists suggest that livestock production for beef is responsible for about 20% of all greenhouse gas emissions (McMichael et al., 2007). Such news has been the basis for the emergence of alimentary identities such as "semi-vegetariansm," "climatarians," "vegavores," and "reducetarians" as a means to mitigate climate change (Yoder, 2016). Indeed, due to increasing global demands for meat, Brian Resnick (2014) notes that a "global vegetarian movement" may be required to limit climate change. Such movements are gradually developing. Meatless Monday, which presented research at the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference (COP21), and focuses on the necessity of reducing global meat consumption to stabilize or decrease greenhouse gas emissions, is now active in 36 countries (Meatless Monday, 2015). There is also a global push for the UN to adopt a Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare (UDAW), which entails declarations that "humans share this planet with other species and other forms of life and that all forms of life co-exist within an interdependent ecosystem" and "animals are living, sentient beings and therefore deserve due consideration and respect" (Gibson, 2011, pp. 569-560). These vegan cosmopolitan moves push the boundaries of hospitality, blurring rigid divisions between life that matters and life outside the scope of ethical concern. We might also conceptualize some of these movements as attempts to envision human-animal communities as "communities of fate" (Baehr, 2005). Due to the effects of animal product consumption on greenhouse gases, the fates of humans and animals are intertwined. In the face of environmental catastrophe, our connected fate might spur movements of non-violence towards animals and a reconfiguration of the global moral community to be more inclusive of animals.

There are indeed numerous movements and organizations that capture some aspects of vegan cosmopolitanism, and, in Shklar's terms, seek to implicate us in global injustice. The organizations briefly discussed here represent the potential of new and imaginative ways of attending to animal others. World Day for Farmed Animals, which is a global event held annually every October 2, is devoted to exposing our violence in using animals for food. Well-Fed World is "a hunger relief and animal protection organization" that encourages "the benefits of sustainable, animal-free solutions in response to global food security, health, hunger, and environmental concerns" by promoting "both the ideal, as well as incremental change" with regard to plant-based food choices (Well-Fed World, n.d.). Well-Fed World has also worked alongside the International Fund for Africa to build vegan school lunch programs and health services in Ethiopia. The Food Empowerment Project is a United States based vegan food justice organization that "seeks to create a more just and sustainable world by recognizing the power of one's food choices" (Food Empowerment Project, n.d.). Their work focuses not only on vegan outreach efforts and holding vigils at chicken slaughterhouses but also on intersecting issues such as farm worker rights and environmental racism. Animal Equality International is a global organization that "rejects all animal use" and conducts undercover investigations of farm animal cruelty around the world (Animal Equality International, n.d.). The Humane League, a U.S.-based nonprofit, has successfully persuaded corporations and international supermarket chains to use only non-battery cage eggs and to switch to global cage-free policies (The Humane League, n.d.). World Animal Protection, while not a vegan justice organization, is active in pressuring the United Nations to include animal protection in the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. They also stress the importance of global animal-human communities, noting that "Animals play a vital role in communities worldwide - and we move the world every day to protect them" (World Animal Protection, n.d.).

While far from exhaustive, these examples illustrate ways in which vegan cosmopolitanism is implied in many organizational efforts around the globe. Though unlikely to elicit a large response among the general public at the moment, these struggles open up inhospitable boundaries, cultivate new ways of thinking about the status of animality, and re-sensitize us to the insensible—to the torturing and killing of animals around the globe. In sum, these efforts suggest possibilities of a transformation of political-ethical responsibilities towards animals in a more open global community.

Beyond global/organizational movements and solutions, we might also see local (individual and collective) action and movement towards vegan cosmopolitanism. Everyday actions like consumer and social signaling might have global effects. The products we buy act as "signals" about our preferences and values, and these purchases communicate information about what kind of person we are or wish to be perceived as. Individual signals are thus social signals as they convey information to (and might influence) others within particular social environments. It is plausible that individual consumer signals conveying positions about consumption, passive injustice, and interspecies justice could increase the likelihood of others seeking to transform the anthropocentric conditions marking animals as largely consumable goods, as creatures outside of "our" moral community. While acting alone does little to change the world, individuals signaling and forming as collectives can achieve important moral ends. Lawford-Smith (2015) suggests that individual commitments to signaling might lead to a "collectivization chain" and significant moral progress. She argues that even ordinary individual acts such as publicly consuming or refusing to consume certain products can demonstrate to others a willingness to act and hence signal broader possibilities for cooperation and change. These signals, whether in the marketplace or on social media, can motivate thoughtfulness and encourage new forms of hospitality as well as prevent inaction due to feelings of hopelessness.

Social signaling also need not only involve repugnance or environmental concern. Drawing upon Spinoza, Aaltola (2015) notes that one path for overcoming barriers to veganism entails an emphasis on its joys. In other words, rather than focusing on repugnance, "rationality," negative demands, or the sacrifices of a vegan lifestyle, Aaltola argues for an emphasis on how veganism "enhances life, adds color and density, [and] richness to existence" (2015, p. 42). Signaling joy, repugnance, or concern with the environment might facilitate "collectivization chains" of vegan cosmopolitan movements. Mounting repugnance to killing animals for human consumption, increasing evidence of environmental effects of animal product consumption, and increasing social signals suggest a growing recognition of the passive injustice of consumption practices and potential moves towards vegan cosmopolitanism.


Over the centuries, cosmopolitan thinkers have attempted to theorize possibilities of a better world—a world where ethical obligations to all humans are taken seriously. This essay has focused on the possibilities of a post-human cosmopolitanism. While there has been some attention to human-animal relations (e.g. Cooke 2014), cosmopolitans have largely ignored how to achieve a nonviolent human-animal global community. To this end, I have proposed what I call "vegan cosmopolitan." If, as David Wood (1999, p. 32) argues, "a carnivorous diet…is…the most visible and violent front of our undeclared war on the creatures with whom we share the planet," then it is imperative for cosmopolitans to critically examine consumption practices in theorizing a post-human cosmopolitanism. Vegan cosmopolitanism represents one possible approach.

Here, I have developed the concept of vegan cosmopolitanism through an interpretation of Derrida's discussions of unconditional hospitality and animal machines and Shklar's work on passive injustice. Derrida's ideas point to the importance of continually interrogating human-animal boundaries and pressing against limits of openness—important conditions for moving towards a more peaceful interspecies global community. Skhlar's writings, like Derrida's work on law and justice, highlight the dangers of confusing laws and legality with justice and show the violence of conceptualizing events, processes, and situations as misfortune rather than injustice. Taken together, these ideas help cultivate a cosmopolitanism that renders visible and is responsive to animal suffering as injustice. Such a cosmopolitanism envisions self-reflective and self-critical vegan movements at local and global, individual and collective levels as fostering a global community that embraces the value of animal life while also steadily pressing for more openness and more justice. Informed by Derrida and Shklar, vegan cosmopolitanism emerges as not simply a conceptual critique of cosmopolitanism or a demand for better legal protections for animals (while important); rather, it becomes an implication of us all in the suffering of a more-than-human world and a self-critical call to expose and disrupt the anthropocentric order of the world that enables indifference towards and violence against vulnerable animals. To echo the convictions of novelist Alice Walker, who is quoted at the beginning of this essay, the arguments in this article aim to be a step towards a fuller assessment of how justice might extend beyond the human, and a reflection on how the possibilities of a global community are at least partially bound up with the promise of less violent consumption practices.

[1] While many studies refer to humans as "human animals" and animals as "non-human animals," I refer to human animals as "humans" and non-human animals as "animals" for the sake of clarity.

[2] Youatt (2012) also provides an excellent examination of the ways by which power produces subjectivities, focusing on foie gras. However, this work intentionally avoids the normative question "of whether or not we should eat foie gras" (p. 355).

[3] See Brock (2009) for a discussion of how cosmopolitanism nonetheless allows for particular commitments and local attachments.

[4] For instance, Gideon Baker (2009, p. 109) elaborates on how "the heart of cosmopolitan ethics is captured by the ethics of hospitality."

[5] See also La Caze (2007) for a discussion of Derrida's hospitality-as-absolute openness and responsibility as unconditional duties.

[6] For further elaboration on this point, see Jazeel (2011).

[7] See also Still (2010) for a discussion of Derrida's work on hospitality in relation to animals.

[8] For additional interpretations of Derrida's writings on violence towards animals, see chapter 4 in Calarco (2008).

[9] Though mechanical milking might have physical benefits for cows and provide farmers with the ability to monitor their health, the cows' freedom and autonomy are possibly eroded as robotic milking is part of a "zero grazing" regime in which cows are confined to a barn at all times (Holloway et al., 2014).

[10] By "pragmatic faith," Bray (2013, p. 448) means faith which "is a rational conviction drawn from the empirical world that suggests cosmopolitan ideals are relevant to solving cross-border problems."


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