Intensive Speciesism Regions in Brazil: Ethical and Social Stains in Territories Supplying Global Meat Markets

Intensive Speciesism Regions in Brazil: Ethical and Social Stains in Territories Supplying Global Meat Markets

Luciano Florit (University of Blumenau, Brazil) and Cristiane Sbardelati (University of Blumenau, Brazil)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9553-5.ch016
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This chapter brings together ethical, social and territorial implications of the meat industry in the regions of Brazil where animal husbandry is the main economic activity. This article thus articulates concepts elaborated in the field of environmental ethics applying them to sociological analysis of territorial development using the notion of ‘regions of intensive speciesism'. The notion is elaborated as a conceptual tool to highlight territories whose socio-economic development pattern accepts the production of meat as a supposed “regional vocation”. In such territories, non-human sentient beings are unquestionably put into the same category as things. The identification of this pattern enunciates interrelated implications of meat production that are not usually recognized. These implications include the high rates of health problems affecting workers in slaughterhouses; the symbolic and economic domination over territories and people by the agroindustry; and the drastic moral inconsideration of sentient beings. The article is based on the case study of Concórdia, a micro region located in the state of Santa Catarina in the south of Brazil.
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Food consumption patterns describing how most people meet their needs are largely defined by producers according to the logic globalized capitalism imposes on productive systems. This logic works, fundamentally, without great moral considerations, unless rules are clearly defined through regulatory and politically legitimate processes.

On the consumer side, according to the specific socio-economic and cultural conditions, there are higher or lower possibilities for interfering with the established patterns through individual choices. However, the expression “consumption pattern” refers to a situation in which practices observe regularities that are somehow not dependant on individual choices. From a probabilistic point of view, our food consumption practices are highly predictable and persistent. This is because individual decisions tend to be repeated routinely in established patterns, without a very conscious decision making process.

In this chapter we show how a certain part of the planet, in this case Concórdia situated in the south of Brazil, has established a productive pattern specialized in supplying pork and poultry to other regions in the same way that other regions supply goods, that is, with no moral considerations whatsoever in relation to these activities. Why should a region that is specialized in the production of pork and poultry have to submit to moral considerations that are different from a region that produces other ordinary goods? The answer is that, although similar to other commodities in the sense that living species are cultivated by farmers and processed industrially, the raw material that is part of the meat production line is made of bodies of individuals who have feelings, preferences and experience pain. Moreover, although similar to other manufactured goods, due to the embedded precision work involved, body parts of pigs and chickens are not mere pieces. They are however treated as such.

The ethical need to distinguish meat production from other types of industrial products and to explain that animals are not mere things is certainly not new. However, in the last four decades, this issue has gained new dimensions due to the development of industrial production and consumption standards linked to the distribution of roles in the current international division of labour. This has influenced the specialization of certain regions as providers of animal products to the international market for use by very distant consumers.

Concórdia – the subject of this case study, is a micro region situated in the state of Santa Catarina in the south of Brazil. Santa Catarina is one of the most important states in Brazil in terms of agro-industrial meat production (poultry, pork and derivatives), supplying both the domestic and international markets. Some of the most well-known agro-industries in Brazil, such as Brasil Foods (currently a merge of Sadia and Perdigão), originated in Concórdia and currently occupy prominent positions in the international meat market.

Animal agriculture is the main economic activity in the Concórdia micro-region, making up 70% of the GDP in some of its municipalities which in turn provide raw materials and labour to large slaughterhouses. This socio-economic and territorial configuration results from a historical process that enables the articulation of interests of various social groups with the agro-industries being the dominant players. Such configuration produces a distinctive development pattern with defined characteristics, shaped with no moral considerations around the radical instrumentalization of the lives and bodies of non-human sentient beings.

Economic, political, environmental and cultural dimensions constitute this scheme and link productive arrangements to socio-cultural values supported by normative and symbolic parameters. According to Florit, de Oliveira, Fleuri and Wartha (2016, p. 239), “(f)rom an environmental point of view this has resulted in the transformation of the landscape and the domesticated animal species both supported by socially defined conceptions of nature”. Giddens (2009) describes ‘patterns’ as a set of practices that generally routinely reproduced. They are associated with a territory which consequently is also a product of these practices (Florit et al., 2016). The economic, political, cultural and environmental patterns connected with a ‘region’ indicate specific geographic areas where they operate and from where the means of their reproduction are attained (Theis, 2008).

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