A Return to Descartes: Property, Profit, and the Corporate Ownership of Animals

28 Pages Posted: 28 Jun 2006


This article examines the shifting landscape of animal agriculture - from family farms a half century ago to factory farms today. Factory farms differ significantly from family farms in their treatment of animals, and are characterized by indoor confinement, overcrowding, disease, darkness, forced mutilations, and the lack of human contact. The seventeenth-century philosopher Rene Descartes claimed that animals could not think nor feel - that they were simply machines like ticking clocks. Although there is now near-universal rejection of Descartes' views, factory farms are only possible by treating animals according to Cartesian principles. So how did factory farms become the norm? This article attempts to answer this question by exploring the economics of animal agriculture, and critically examines the move by some corporations to apply principles of corporate social responsibility to animals.

Keywords: Corporation, Animal, Factory Farm, Profit Maximization, Corporate Social Responsibility, Organic

JEL Classification: K22, M14, M21, Q13

Suggested Citation

Ibrahim, Darian M., A Return to Descartes: Property, Profit, and the Corporate Ownership of Animals. Law and Contemporary Problems, Vol. 70, page 87, 2007, Arizona Legal Studies Discussion Paper No. 06-23, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=912815

Darian M. Ibrahim (Contact Author)

William & Mary Law School ( email )

South Henry Street
P.O. Box 8795
Williamsburg, VA 23187-8795
United States

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