Pompeius Festus, On the Significance of Words:

it is not permitted to sacrifice this man [homo sacer], yet he who kills him will not be condemned for homicide.

Walter Benjamin, “Critique of Violence”:

For law-preserving violence is a threatening violence. And its threat is not intended as the deterrent that uninformed liberal theorists interpret it to be. A deterrent in the exact sense would require a certainty that contradicts the nature of a threat and is not attained by any law, since there is always hope of eluding its arm. This makes it all the more threatening, like fate, which determines whether the criminal is apprehended. The deepest purpose of the uncertainty of the legal threat will emerge from the later consideration of the sphere of fate in which it originates. There is a useful pointer to it in the sphere of punishments. Among them, since the validity of positive law has been called into question, capital punishment has provoked more criticisms than all others. However superficial the arguments may in most cases have been, their motives were and are rooted in principle. The opponents of these critics felt, perhaps without knowing why and probably involuntarily, that an attack on capital punishment assails not legal measure, not laws, but law itself in its origin. For if violence, violence crowned by fate, is the origin of law, then it may be readily supposed that where the highest violence, that over life and death, occurs in the legal system, the origins of law jut manifestly and fearsomely into existence. In agreement with this is the fact that the death penalty in primitive legal systems is imposed even for such crimes as offences against property, to which it seems quite out of “proportion.” Its purpose is not to punish the infringement of law but to establish new law. For in the exercise of violence over life and death, more than in any other legal act, the law reaffirms itself. But in this very violence something rotten in the law is revealed, above all to a finer sensibility, because the latter knows itself to be infinitely remote from conditions in which fate might imperiously have shown itself in such a sentence.

Justice Scalia’s dissenting opinion In re Troy Anthony Davis:

The Georgia Supreme Court rejected petitioner’s “actual-innocence” claim on the merits, denying his extraordinary motion for a new trial. Davis can obtain relief only if that determination was contrary to, or an unreasonable application of, “clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States.” It most assuredly was not. This Court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is “actually” innocent. Quite to the contrary, we have repeatedly left that question unresolved, while expressing considerable doubt that any claim based on alleged “actual innocence” is constitutionally cognizable.


Earlier this week I successfully defended my dissertation, “Early Modern Speculative Anthropology,” and passed with no revisions (aside from minor copy-edits). My committee consisted of Brian Singer (supervisor), Lorna Weir and Phillip Walsh. My internal examiner was Asher Horowitz and my external examiner was John Sanbonmatsu. Jody Berland acted as chair. Given the different theoretical and disciplinary orientations of the examiners (three sociologists, a political theorist, a political philosopher, and a cultural studies-ist), the questions were interesting and thought-provoking and, I hope, the discussion was too. York University is very strange in terms of its official rules regarding dissertation examinations (no Skype/Facetime for externals) and, so, John had to call in for a phone conference thing on an ancient phone with a terrible speaker and an even worse microphone. This was a bit of a challenge. About an hour into the examination, there was a fire alarm. The examination was in York Lanes (the campus mall: yes, there is a mall on campus) and we all had to evacuate the building. We ended up relocating to Vari Hall in the sociology department where there is a library; likely the nicest room on campus. It was small, but this made it easier to do the phone part because we weren’t all so far away from the microphone and speaker (although the connection did drop once). Relocating also allowed Lorna and Blythe, who attended the defence, to go on a recon mission for food and drinks. They found a meeting in progress and Lorna decided that because “I am a member of the department” she was allowed to raid the meeting. Blythe stole a coffee for me, which saved my throat for the last two-thirds of the defence. Other highlights included—pretty much at the start—the external making reference to “object-oriented ontology” and the chair saying the name of a well-known practitioner of “OOO” and then sticking her finger in her mouth and making a barfing sound. It definitely lightened the mood of the defence.

In addition to finally defending the dissertation, highlights included all of the readily available vegan food in Toronto. We overindulged at Bunners Bakery, Through Being Cool Bakery (three times), Hogtown Vegan (twice), Fresh (three times), and Yam Chops Vegetarian Butcher (twice). When I first heard about Yam Chops, I was skeptical, but I am now convinced: it is even better than Hogtown, especially the “chicken” shawarma. I’d literally eat the “chicken” shawarma for every meal. Select the fingerling potato salad as your side. They also have a line of (expensive) fresh juices called Au Jus. I had the Hot-C both times and Blythe had the Dirty Dancing (watermelon and lemon: as in “I carried a watermelon!”). While the bakery market has improved in Ottawa recently with the addition of Strawberry Blonde (the cupcakes are likely the best I’ve had), there is nothing in Ottawa comparable to the old-fashioned donuts and cinnamon buns at Through Being Cool. Those things are unbelievable.

I don’t recommend the Hilton Garden Inn on Dundas and Jarvis. The staff was friendly and competent, but the facilities (especially the bed! and the shower! and the TV! and the internet!) left much to be desired.

Laureen Harper, Cats, and Native Women

The other day, the Prime Minister’s wife, Laureen Harper, was at some event in Toronto to raise money for homeless cats. She has been active in the Ottawa Humane Society for years and, apparently, she also makes appearances for other Humane Societies. Due to her participation in these events, she has wrongly and incorrectly been labelled an “animal advocate.” She is no such thing. She likes cats and she likes parties. The event was disrupted by an activist who noted that supporting cats is a good campaign strategy for her husband, but isn’t supporting Native women a better campaign strategy? To her credit, the Prime Minister’s wife didn’t say anything especially stupid in response to the question, but she didn’t address it either. Predictably, online activists took this as yet another sign that Native women are not and will not get the support they need from the government, including an inquiry into the hundreds of missing and murdered Native women in Canada.

The problem with the response on the part of the activists is that they—both strangely and wrongly—believe that social justice activism is a zero-sum game. Either you can support cats or you can support Native women, but you can’t support both. By showing up at one event, but not the other, means that you condemn the latter. Perhaps this is true in the case of the Harpers (specifically) and the Conservatives (generally), but this isn’t a necessary conclusion. (If an activist attends an Idle No More event, but is unable to attend and Occupy Bay Street event, are they, therefore, saying that OBS is an unimportant movement? What if they attend the INM, stop by the OBS, but can’t make it to a pro-choice rally? Are they effectively anti-choice?) It is also odd because the Conservative government, under Harper’s direction, has made northern development a priority. While this development hasn’t, as such, emphasized improving the lives of Native peoples in the north, it has, as a side effect, led to heavy-handed and strange defense of the Native “seal hunt” and, by extension, of the Newfoundland “seal hunt.”

In attacking the Prime Minister’s wife, the “hashtag activists” find themselves in a rather incoherent position. One popular Tweet proposed the “white settler” Great Chain of Being: white men, white women, seals, native men, cats, native women. But, as has already been noted, the federal Conservative government is a staunch supporter of the “seal hunt” for both fur and meat. Perhaps their support is merely pragmatic: it throws a bone to angry Natives and former fisherman, but it doesn’t negate the fact that the Conservative government is fighting seal trade bans in the EU while promising lucrative Chinese markets for seal meat when it could be directing those resources to more important and productive ends, ranging from an inquiry into the hundreds of missing and murdered Native women to properly funding Library and Archives Canada.

No doubt, it is true that the seal hunt is unpopular among urban, white progressives and its unpopularity is global. It is so unpopular that even China, one of the most notorious animal abusing countries in the world, will not take seal meat. This is aside from the fact that literally no one considers seal meat to be edible. That is, beyond those ideologically committed to killing three week old seals, such as unemployed fisherman and “gourmet chefs” looking to cash in on a niche “adventure cuisine” market. None the less, it is true that white, urban progressives are largely opposed to the seal hunt. But it doesn’t follow from this that because one is opposed to seal hunting that one is also opposed to an inquiry into the missing women, proper shelter and clean water in Native communities, or addressing significant overrepresentation of Natives in the “justice” system.

Just because seal hunting is (said to be) a “traditional” Native cultural activity and because one opposes a particular “traditional” cultural activity does not mean that one is opposed to the betterment of the lives of those people who identify with that culture. The reasons for this are plentiful: culture is not monolithic and a single practice is not equivalent to an entire culture (if it is even possible to talk about an entire culture). The problem isn’t culture (although culture is little more than a frayed bandage pull over the gaping wound that is the nihilism the haunts the core of all social relations), but the defense of something like the “seal hunt” on the grounds that it is a traditional cultural activity. The reason for this is obvious: if a “traditional” cultural activity is defended on the basis of tradition alone—as is the case with the “seal hunt”—then all ostensibly “traditional” cultural activities must be defended on that basis because it is being maintained that tradition as such is an inherent good that overrides all other concerns. This leads to the absurd consequence that in slave-holding societies, slave-holding is morally justified because it is traditional; this leads to the absurd consequence that in “settler” societies oppressing Native peoples is justified because Native peoples have been traditionally oppressed. That is, given that historically speaking, the vast majority of cultures have been characterized by racism, sexism, and other odious beliefs that we must defend these for the simple reason that they are traditional. In other words, while culture might be comforting, it is not liberation.


The question then arises as to why these cultural activities such as “sealing” are so eagerly defended when a “culture” feels itself to be under siege. After all, we are in a new period of Native activism that was largely crushed following the disastrous Kanesatake stand-off and it is little surprise, therefore, that a people seeking to defend their culture would also defend the most odious aspects of that culture. When a culture feels itself to be under siege, it turns to its most stigmatized cultural activities in an effort to revaluate them in a positive light. Thus, “sealing”—and encouraging “settlers” to participate in the rituals of “sealing” by eating the raw still-warm heart of a seal like a pregnant Dothraki khaleesi eating the equally still-warm raw heart of a horse—is defended. We accordingly see the rise in “traditional” garments made of a variety of dead animals. Made, of course, using “traditional” things like factory-spun threads, synthetic materials, sewing machines, razor-sharp scissors, tape measures, and the like. It might feel like liberation to those participating in these activities, but we shouldn’t confuse this feeling with being progressive. It is regressive and nothing more.


To get back to my main point, which is twofold. First, animal rights and Native rights are not incompatible with one another. Second, it follows that animal rights activists and Native rights activists should work together (as we should work with other progressive, rights-based movements). How, then, are these two issues connected with one another? In response to the mostly asinine Tweeting on cats vs. Native women, I pointed out that cultures that rape cows (to get milk) also rape women; cultures that easily dispose of vulnerable animals (such as Laureen Harper’s cats) also dispose of vulnerable women; cultures that murder animals also murder women. There is a structural homology between the place of the animal and the place of the Native woman in Canadian society. Both are disposable. Both are worthless. However, morally speaking, neither are disposable and neither are worthless. In an important book, The Sexual Politics of Meat, Carol Adams pointed out this connection: in effect, “meat” is what connects women to animals and men to the domination of both.

When activists juxtapose seals to Native men and cats to Native women they are are giving in to the same logic that juxtaposes white men to Native men and white women to Native women. The domination of chickens, cows, and pigs is no better than the domination of seals. It is only the weak, reactive, and violent who seek to impose themselves on the world through violence. Killing and abusing makes one feel powerful. After all, a life is in your hands. You get to play master; you get to play God.

A Native man slaughtering a seal is no better than a white man slaughtering a Native woman. Both are born out of the same desire to oppress, to humiliate, and to delight in sheer unmediated violence. The answer, then, is that, yes, not only should there be an inquiry into the missing women (and, yes, something needs to be done about the general treatment of Natives in Canada, whether they are the urban poor, the incarcerated, or on reserves), but something also needs to be done about the treatment of animals and the nearly one billion animals slaughtered for food in Canada each year. It isn’t that seals are worth more than Native men nor is it that cats are worth more than Native women; but cats and seals are worth no more and no less than Native men and women—and the same goes for black men, white women, and donkeys. The animal rights activist—of which Laureen Harper is no such thing—does not value the life of a seal more than the life of a Native man nor do they value the life of a cat more than the life of a Native woman. The animal rights activist sees all lives as equally valuable or, at least, equally possessing the right to persist in existence and not to suffer capricious abuse and violence at the hands of an oppressor.

Comments on CUPE 4600 Tentative Agreement

I attended the presentation of the tentative agreement last night and participated in the ratification vote. At no point were we instructed not to talk about the details of the agreement in public, but, at the same time, the union has not yet sent out copies of the presentation documents to all the members by e-mail. As a result, I will keep my comments general and vague.

First, regardless of how the ratification process turns out, I would like to thank not only the bargaining team—whose position is not the least bit enviable having to deal with, among other things, petty “human resources” representatives (whatever those are)—but also the staff in the office, and the volunteers on the mobilization team. That an agreement was reached without a strike owes much to them.

Nonetheless, while the agreement is likely the best “in the sector” during the round of negotiations, it is not the least bit satisfactory. The blame for this lies entirely with Carleton University who will, no doubt, trumpet an absolutely unfair and unreasonable agreement as a great achievement. Perhaps, insofar as it is an achievement, it will even rival a couple dozen students from Sprott participating in some charity event which, for some reason, demanded yet another spam-level email from the President the day after the agreement was reached.

Most people focus on salary issues. Going into negotiations, contract instructors at Carleton University (in a major city with a high cost of living at a university that wants to improve its academic profile) were being paid roughly 8% less than the provincial average and, more to the point, we were being paid $1000 less (roughly 14%) than our colleagues at the University of Ottawa are being paid. Keep in mind that this means you can offer the same course at Carleton as at Ottawa (e.g., Introduction to Political Science) and be paid significantly more at one than the other. Given that many people do, in fact, teach more or less identical courses at Ottawa as at Carleton, it cannot be maintained that the mere fact of being on one campus rather than another makes one a better or worse teacher. But, note, I would also maintain that our colleagues at the University of Ottawa, while their compensation is better, are still treated unfairly and are exploited—the difference in treatment is one of minor degree and not in kind.

The short of it is that the tentative agreement changes pay as follows: 0%/2%/2% during the life of the agreement. To make up for the lack of an increase in the first year, there is a $200 lump sum payment for “compliance training” (all of the more or less silly online modules relating to workplace harassment and the Ontarians With Disabilities Act) that was imposed upon us without warning. In other words, pay for a full course (i.e., weighed at 1.0) will increase from $12,966 to $13,225 effective September 2014 ($259) and from $13,225 to $13,490 effective September 2015 ($265).

In any given semester, there are roughly 250 individual contract instructors. If each contract instructor were to teach a full load (1.0 credits per semester)—which many don’t—we can roughly calculate how much this “raise” will cost the university: in Fall and Winter 2014 it will cost the university $129,500 and in Fall/Winter 2015 it will cost the university $132,500 more than what we are being paid in 2013. This cost is completely and absolutely negligible to the university. For them to claim that there is no money is completely and absolutely false. Had the university agreed to our opening salary demand, we will still be talking less than $1 million per year in increased costs.

To put this in perspective, the “garage mahal” is now costing $34 million and it will hold about 650 cars. In other words, each parking space will cost roughly $55,284 to build. To put this in comparison, the entire body of contract instructors at Carleton are worth slightly more than two parking spaces. Similarly, the costs of “bringing football back” far exceed the net total of the pay increase to contract instructors: the university was easily able to find money to renovate (again!) athletics, recruit undergraduates to play sports, and engage in extensive marketing, but they can’t find a couple hundred thousand for contract instructors? Unlike the football team, who only delivered losses, contract instructors actually deliver results. After all, roughly 50% of the undergraduate population at any given time is taught by contract instructors. This is respect?

The bottom line is that the “pay increase” is an insult when put into the perspective of campus priorities and, worse, the “pay increase” is a net pay cut relative to inflation. I am still making less now (and at the end of the new agreement) than I was when I started in 2007.

The next part of the agreement that will draw attention are the medical benefits. Personally, I do not think that this constitutes “new money” because the benefits were to be implemented prior to the expiration of the current agreement. Needless to say, benefits were not implemented and the university tried to pull back on this commitment. Given the university’s refusal to meet its requirements under the previous agreement, it is impressive that the bargaining team was able to get a solid commitment from the university: an annual lump sum payment of $200,000 to cover insurance premiums for CUPE 4600 members. I understand that the union is talking to a broker and they are confident they can reach an agreement that will provide comprehensive health insurance at an affordable rate. But, again, given the numbers we are talking about, the university could easily have swallowed the entire cost of premiums (what? another $50,000? please). Sadly, insurance coverage is not retroactive to September 2013, but won’t begin until September 2014. I hope my cavities haven’t progressed to root canals by then.

The other major issues in the agreement are somewhat softer. The bargaining team believes that they are a good first step towards greater respect on campus. Personally, having been around since 2007 as a contract instructor and having been a student between 1998 and 2004, I am not so confident. If there is one thing administration (regardless of who Duncan Watt reports to) does consistently it is the wrong thing.

The major movement was around (1) teaching evaluations, (2) job security, and (3) governance.

The teaching evaluations issue is important. As everyone surely knows (even the hapless Bruce Winer in OIRP, at least I hope he knows—but then, I’m not sure he’s even familiar with t-tests despite being in charge of institutional statistics), teaching evaluations as such are crude and the form of teaching evaluations used by Carleton are a waste of time, paper, electricity, ink, hard drives, and resources. The win here is that CUPE 4600 has been granted the authority to form a committee to develop a new teaching evaluation “instrument.” From what I can tell, the committee has been given absolutely free reign to do this. This is a real opportunity to improve both working and learning conditions on campus. (Recall: under the current regime, contract instructors are required to get 4/5 on their teaching evaluations or they suffer sanctions, including the possibility of dismissal.)

There are a couple of aspects to the job security issues. Some of it is rather arcane and relates to hiring procedures. I’m told that certain units on campus (e.g., Gender and Women’s Studies) makes strange demands on applicants and this problem has been resolved. I also understand that certain units on campus (e.g., Economics) abuses the “visiting scholar” designation to “bump” contract instructors who have fallen into the disfavour of the Chair from their courses. This problem has also been resolved. Sadly, the university refused to even consider reminding Chairs that contract instructors can be appointed as Adjunct Research Professors (which means, among other things, that we could apply for SSHRC/NSERC/CIHR funding as principal investigators or serve on graduate supervisory committees).

There was also some minor progress made in the area of conversion. Previously, the threshold for conversion (i.e., from a “temporary” and “part-time” CUPE 4600 position to a permeant and full-time CUASA position) was teaching 3.0 credits (the maximum possible load which is easy for departments to prevent from occurring) to 2.0 credits a year over three years. Needless to say, I’ve qualified for this designation since Fall 2007. The problem, however, is with the wording: the contract instructor in question can request their Dean to “review” and “consider” creating an Instructor (and only an instructor position?) if a contract instructor meets these requirements. “Review” and “consider,” interpreted loosely, could merely mean “read an email and reply with no.” But, assuming the Dean agrees that a CUASA position should be created, there is no guarantee that the contract instructor will be appointed. In other words, it is conceivable that someone in my position could apply for conversion, the Dean agree to create a CUASA position, and then hire someone else—that is, through my exploitation over a long period of time I could create the conditions under which I am fired and replaced by someone else. I hope if the agreement is ratified that CUASA works closely with CUPE 4600 and agrees that in such cases the contract instructor should have the right of first refusal prior to advertising the position publicly.

A final improvement under the agreement is a Memorandum of Agreement to establish a committee to investigate the adoption of multi-year contracts for contract instructors. Given that most of us teach the same course for multiple years, this is a good idea as it will guarantee job security and prevent us from being capriciously and maliciously “bumped” by spiteful Chairs. Nonetheless, whatever the committee concludes, there is no requirement on the part of the university to adopt any of the recommendations.

There was also some movement around governance. Strangely, the university has held the view that contract instructors are only teachers and, therefore, do not merit inclusion in the government of the university. This is odd because administrative support staff are included in the government of the university. Professors are included in the government of the university. That one is hired to answer phones or conduct research doesn’t preclude one from having an interest in the governance of the institution. (The real reason, of course, is that if contract instructors do more than teach—which we already do anyway—then the gap between contract faculty and permanent faculty narrows.) There has been some movement to look into contract instructor representation at the departmental and faculty levels. Likewise, John Osborn has made a personal commitment to advocate for the inclusion of contract instructors in Senate. What this advocacy entails has not been clarified. I hope someone takes the Dean’s lead and advocates for contract instructors at the Board of Governors—perhaps Root Gorelick? Finally, the university has agreed to extend 0.5 seniority points to any contract instructor who has been elected to a university committee, board, etc. This is important because, first, it is the closest thing we have to official acknowledgement that we are not merely teachers and, second, these seniority points contribute to the case for conversion (in effect, teaching two full courses and serving on one committee results in a 2.5 full credit equivalent, which puts the contract instructor well above the threshold for conversion).

Finally, there was a “major” improvement in working conditions: departments are now required to provide access to a printer. Sadly, I still do not have an office, I do not have a phone, I do not have a computer, and I do not have a printer. Sorry students: we’ll still have to meet in public.

In conclusion: there were minor, but important developments in the “soft” areas of the contract—professional development, teaching evaluations, and governance—but there was no improvement in the “hard” areas of compensation. Given how little this money means to the university and how much it means to contract instructors, this is absolutely insulting, repulsive, reprehensible, and disgusting. While I am grateful to the bargaining team for the efforts and I certainly do not wish to put myself in their position and while I agree with the bargaining team no better deal was possible, I nonetheless voted against ratification. This agreement is not fair, it is not reasonable, and makes virtually no progress in improving my working conditions. It is an insult to me and it is an insult to my students.

Although I voted against ratification, I hope the agreement is ratified. It’d be nice if it were ratified at just 51%. It is important that contract instructors speak up and say how unsatisfied we are not only with this agreement, but also with our treatment on campus. It is important that we don’t let administration forget how exploited we are. We need to be better at communicating this to prospective students (and their parents) and our current students.

Sadly, we have squandered our opportunity to strike. We have lost momentum and, if we return to the table, students will turn against us. Most of the good parts of the agreement, I am told, came at the last minute—literally just before it was announced that a tentative agreement was reached. The university was already caving and panicking—after all, they already announced we were on strike on their website! We could have gotten more and we should have gotten more.

Animal Law Panel

Yesterday I participated in a panel on animal law in Ontario hosted by the Student Animal Legal Defence Fund at the University of Ottawa. In addition to me, Joan Reddy, an activist, and Kurtis Andrews, an attorney, participated. The organizers sent us set questions, my answers to which I’ve posted below.

I’ve never spoken at a law school, so I wasn’t too sure what to expect. I worried, as many speakers do, that no one would show. Ultimately, there were about a dozen people in the audience—all female. (The panel, by comparison, was two men and a woman.) Most of the audience was in law school, but there were also a couple of other interested students, including one who doesn’t even attend the University of Ottawa, but heard about the event and wanted to check it out. Turns out that this student was in a  high school enrichment course I taught a few years ago on animal ethics. She’s been a vegan since taking the course. It turns out that good, interesting teaching really can change the lives of our students.

In terms of the discussion, we had one academic (me), one attorney (Kurtis), and one activist (Joan). We weren’t always talking on the same level and we didn’t use the same vocabulary. I don’t know if this was confusing for the audience or not. Sadly, Kurtis seemed to attempt to “hog” the conversation. His answers went on at length and he attempted to co-opt what others said as his own. He repeatedly referred to me as “my friend.” We aren’t friends.

I don’t know if the organizers knew this at the time, but Kurtis Andrews, while practicing animal law, does not practice animal law on behalf of animals. His practice largely consists of defending animal abusers, mostly hoarders and other people who find themselves in circumstances where they cannot properly care for their animals. Properly in this context referring to the absolutely minimal standards of care that are required of animal owners in Ontario. He tried to present this as work on behalf of the animals, but it isn’t.

One question asked about the recent changes under the regulations of the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act that would, among other things, introduce standards of care for marine animals (i.e., Marineland), some small money for the OSPCA, and facilitate shutting down puppy mills. I answered that this amounted to nothing and showed no real concern for animals at all. I then discussed the livestock exemption under the OSPCA Act in conjunction with the new standards of care for “pork” recently released. These new standards of care do not and will not improve the lives of pigs, especially sows. I said that if the Minister was truly concerned with animals and wanted to strengthen protections for animals within an animal welfare ideology, she would ban gestation crates, battery cages, and so on.

Kurtis replied to this that I was misinformed on “conventional farming.” And then went on to say that farmers using “conventional methods” are only trying to feed the poor. You see, people need protein and the only place to get protein is from animal carcasses, so, when you think about it, farmers using gestation stalls (which don’t exist) are actually doing God’s work. A member of the audience—a female—called Kurtis on this. She pointed out that economies of scale only reduce costs to an extent; further cost reductions are introduced through externalities—for instance, the health care costs associated with a diet heavy in the consumption of animal protein, the release of methane gases through manure, poising rivers and aquifers, and billions of dollars in government subsidies. Another audience member—another female—tried to speak in support of this. Kurtis immediately interrupted her and would not let her speak. Even when I tried to intervene, begging him to let the audience speak because this event is for them and that he had ample opportunities to express his views, he still insisted on speaking over the women in the audience. I guess Kurtis Andrews thinks that women in his audience should be treated like the animals on his plate. I think there is a term for that: the sexual politics of meat.

It was a sad end to what was otherwise a good event.


The organizer’s questions are in bold; my answers are not.

What has made you dedicate a significant portion of your career to working in the animal welfare and animal law realm?

Strictly speaking, I do not work in animal welfare. I think animal welfare is a bad idea because it functions to legitimate the horrible exploitation of animals. Animal welfare is bad for animals, has always been bad for animals, and will always be bad for animals.

Having said that, I didn’t have any particular interest in animals and law until a seven years ago when we took our dog for a surgery to be performed by, what we were repeatedly told, was one of the best soft-tissue animal surgeons in the world. Needless to say, this world renowned expert bungled the surgery, which resulted in our dog dying in much pain and suffering. Upon looking into the issue, we discovered that the surgeon was not professionally liable for any errors he made and that, at best, we could sue in small claims for the replacement value of our dog.

I then became curious to know why this was the case. It was an issue I had never thought about. Ultimately, I ended up reading widely in animal ethics, cognitive ethology, and animal law. Now I do research in the area and I also, occasionally, teach a course on animal law and animal ethics.

In the event there was a commission undertaking the mass revision of law treating animals (OSPCA, Criminal code etc.) what would, in your opinion be the most important area of reform?

So long as animals are legally treated as property, there will be no significant improvement for animals in Ontario, Canada, or the world. Animals—and by this I mean fish, reptiles, birds, and mammals—ought to be recategorized as persons and have rights appropriate to such a status. There can be no improvement for animals insofar as animal welfare remains the dominant ideology.

Along the same vein of thought, what do you view as the main obstacles in the way of making the alterations just mentioned?

The primary obstacles are twofold. First, despite their pretentions of being “animal lovers,” the overwhelmingly vast majority of people are in actual fact “animal haters.” Loving animals or, more modestly, liking animals, is not compatible with consuming their corpses and bodily excretions. It is not compatible with subjecting them to torture in the name of so-called scientific and medical progress. It is not compatible with bringing them into existence in order to be sold. It is not compatible with putting them in cages and charging an admission fee. Second, there is a lot of money in animal exploitation. And, for better or for worse, our legal and political systems are rigged in the favour of those who have money. Animals have no money and, if they did, they couldn’t even legally have their interests represented in court or in politics.

Last October, MPP Madeleine Meilleur announced that the Ontario government was drafting significant changes to existing animal laws in Ontario, including increased funding for the OSPCA for more investigative powers, mandatory inspections for zoos and aquarium, as well as statutorily enforced standards of care for aquarium-held mammals. Are these revisions a step in the right direction? How do these changes reflect the relationship of Ontario citizens to animals, please comment.

No. These changes are window decorations at best. The popularity of places like Marineland have been declining for some time and people tend to like the idea of whales and dolphins. They don’t like the idea of whales and dolphins being held in small swimming pools. People also like the idea of puppies, which is why the changes speak directly to puppy mills. If serious changes were being proposed, the Minister would be banning veal crates, gestation crates, and battery cages among countless other horrors. However, this will not happen and the OSPCA is fully on-board with these changes having largely given up its authority over animal agriculture through signing inspection agreements with animal exploiting industries to allow “producers” such as Ontario Pork to provide “technical advice and expertise” to OSPCA investigators. This only underwrites the general exclusion of animal agriculture from the OSPCA Act in, for instance, section 11.1(2)(a). The OSPCA remains today what its parent organizations were in the 1890s: a Victorian society of the well-to-do policing dogs and cats.

Given the discussion here today, what would your advice be to students who wish to pursue a careers, or continue working in areas of animal welfare, law and the public interest?

I’d advise any student who takes the interests of animals seriously to completely and absolutely abandon the idea of animal welfare. Animal welfare has not improved the life of a single animal. In fact, animal welfare has allowed more animals to be harmed in worse ways than ever before. The most practical thing anyone can do who wants to help animals—and this applies whether they want to be lawyers, politicians, academics, or stock shelves at Wal-Mart overnight—is to stop consuming animals entirely: adopt a vegan lifestyle and divorce yourself from animal exploitation.

For those looking to pursue legal and political careers, the only hope for animals is to reclassify animals as persons. This will be hard work and it will involve political activism, writing in public forums such as op-ed pages, pushing for political parties to adopt pro-animal policies, carefully selecting cases to set up a body of precedent, refusing to accept clients who have financial interests in exploiting animals, and so on. More locally, groups like the SALDF can hold more events like this, they can press their law schools to hire faculty with expertise in animal law, and demand that regular courses be offered on animal law.


Both CUPE units, representing contract instructors and teaching assistants, have reached tentative agreements. Both agreements still need to be ratified.

The CI agreement better address salary, benefit, and working condition concerns. I’ll post my comments once I’ve seen the agreement and if we are allowed to publicly discuss it.


I have noticed that a number of undergraduate students at Carleton have complained on Twitter that they are an unrepresented group and that their interests are being ignored. This may be true as a matter of course. However, undergraduate students, unlike contract instructors, have ample formal representation at Carleton.

There are a number of representative bodies at Carleton University and contract instructors are not allowed to serve in any of these bodies. Undergraduate students, however, are allowed to serve in these bodies. Most notably, of course, is that undergraduate students have the Carleton Undergraduate Student Association (CUSA), which serves to aggregate the interests of undergraduate students and collectively represent those interests to various administrative and governing bodies on campus.

In addition to this, undergraduate students can elect representatives to the Board of Governors, which handles financial planning and long-term direction of the university, and the Senate, which handles academic matters. In effect, the university’s bargaining team reports to the Vice-President (Finance) who, in turn, reports to the Board of Directors. Undergraduate students therefore have direct oversight of negotiations between not only CUPE 4600, but all other unions on campus, including CUASA. Likewise, students are represented in Senate and thereby have influence in course offerings, curriculum, program development, academic standards, and other important matters. Again, contract instructors do not have representation in Senate.

Finally, while some individual Departments allow for some contract instructors to participate on the Faculty Board, most Departments allow representation of not only graduate students, but also undergraduate students. Thus, once again, undergraduate students have the opportunity to influence hiring decisions—for instance, whether to only offer courses taught by regular faculty or to convert contract instructors to regular faculty—while contract instructors have no such involvement.

Additionally, departmental, faculty, and university level committees routinely involve undergraduate and graduate student members. I am not aware of a single faculty or university level committee that has contract instructors (qua contract instructors) as members.

On top of all this formal representation, undergraduate students also have a champion in the form of the Office of the Ombudsperson who serves as a liaison between students who feel they are being mistreated by the formal administrative and governance institutions on campus and the university’s administrators. Contract instructors, however, have no such ombudsperson to assist us with our complaints.

The reality is that two groups on campus have absolutely no representation on campus: contract instructors and contract cleaners. The only representation that contract instructors have on campus is through CUPE 4600. Perhaps if Carleton University included contract instructors in its governance, relations between contract instructors and the administration would not be so acrimonious.

If undergraduate students feel that their interests are not being adequately represented, I encourage them to contact the literally dozens of elected representatives they have on campus.

Back Up!

This sent went down some time Saturday night around 11:40PM. I have reason to believe that it was a misguided student and I have reason to believe that I know their identity. They aren’t as stealthy as they believe. In short, they were trying to overwhelm the MySQL database that WordPress depends upon to deliver content. The result is that the server was unable to process legitimate requests. I hope that the student in question believes that they have “made their point” or have learnt their lesson.

In the event that this is just a lapse in the attack (e.g., their ISP shut down their connection due to the odd traffic patterns his IP was sending out), I will continue to cross-post to contract-instructor.tumblr.com.

As I understand it, negotiations went late last night and are ongoing today. Both sides have agreed to a media blackout and will not make an announcement until either a deal is reached or a strike (or lockout) is initiated. I hope that Carleton is committed to reaching a fair settlement because I want to teach tomorrow. However, I am also prepared to strike tomorrow because more is at stake than just my oral health and my near poverty wages. Universities would like to increasingly use adjunct instructors because we are cheap, we are disposable, and we are competent. Such policies do not help students. Such policies do not contribute to education. Such polices are, in short, evil.