Becoming Animal with the Victorians

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in or organisation af a conference

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Sune Borkfelt - Speaker

Presented the paper '“Disgusting Spectacle”: Victorian Cattle Markets, Abattoirs and the Marginalization of Animals'. Abstract: The Victorian period brought about heightened debate on, and new sensibilities toward, animals and human-animal relationships in a number of contexts. However, the period can also, somewhat paradoxically, be seen as the starting point of the increased marginalization of animals from human lives, which theorists such as John Berger and Richard W. Bulliet have argued affect contemporary culture and attitudes toward animals in various ways. Debates on the abattoirs and cattle market at Smithfield, for instance, repeatedly discussed the problems caused by animal presence in the city, and the possibilities of removing animal trade and slaughter either from the city entirely, or from the sight of city dwellers. In these debates, the discourse on animal cruelty blended into discourses on issues such as hygiene, safety, moral depravity and aesthetics, and the debates therefore informs us about attitudes to animals among different classes and professions in Victorian society – from butchers and drovers to politicians, journalists and animal advocates – as well as about the role of the animal in the Victorian metropolis. Through readings of fiction, journalism, laws and political debates, this paper explores how various issues came together to form the discourse on slaughter and animals in the city. This was a discourse, which played a significant part in the gradual marginalization of animals from human lives and the development of ways of concealing slaughter, which have received increased attention in recent years.
4 Feb 20165 Feb 2016


ConferenceBecoming Animal with the Victorians
LocationUniversité Paris Diderot

ID: 96820506