Culling, catastrophe and collectivity

Law, John (2008). Culling, catastrophe and collectivity. Distinktion: Scandinavian Journal of Social Theory, 16 pp. 61–76.



This paper explores the epidemiology of the culling policies used to control the UK 2001 foot and mouth epidemic. It treats these as a set of political technologies for defining and implementing a version of the common good, and for distinguishing between those parts of the animal-related collective that were to be saved from slaughter, and those that were to be culled. Describing the differences in the policies as these evolved during the crisis, it argues that the last of these, derived from a model developed at Imperial College London, was unnecessarily and inappropriately draconian. It considers why this model was preferred, and argues that it and its surrounding practices were technically, politically, socially, and organisationally opaque. It concludes by pressing the case for political technologies that are, by contrast, relatively transparent, and therefore contestable, and also suggests that devolved political technologies (which often develop in practice as they did in 2001) deserve serious attention.

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