Authors: Cristina Hanganu-Bresch*, University of the Sciences
Topics: Animal Geographies, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: animals, digital space, veganism, displacement
Session Type: Paper
Start / End Time: 1:20 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Astor Ballroom III, Astor, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded
Cultural geographers have extended the purview of their research to both animals and digital space respectively. The two perspectives can be combined in the analysis of animals’ place within digital environments, especially in the context of online vegan advocacy groups. Animals already occupy a large part of our digital geography; as the saying goes, the Internet was made for cats, and the “cute animal genre” is widely popular. Vegan activists also use the internet, especially social media, to propagate their ideas – posting videos about the realities of animal farming operations, slaughterhouses, zoos, fur farms, or unethical pet ownership among others. This practice has the potential to radicalize the viewers in two diametrically opposed ways: one in which the message creates converts, and one in which the message is regarded as prurient, sensationalist propaganda, thus reinforcing non- and even anti-vegan behaviors. I am interested in the notion of placement and displacement of animals in this particular context. Many of our first encounters with real animals (aside from traditional pets) have been with already displaced animals: on plates, in zoos or petting zoos, in the circus, or with accidental wildlife in urban parks. By distributing visuals that depict acts defined as cruelty against animals, vegan activists force a symbolic relocation or digital resettling of the place of animals in our everyday lives. This paper will chart the distribution of animal cruelty videos in a number of representative vegan activist social media sites and discuss implications for the digital geography of veganism.