Industrialized animal agriculture—concentrated animal feeding operations (“CAFOs”) and slaughterhouses—is inherently oppressive of both nonhumans and humans. This Article seeks to expose the human side of that exploitation, specifically examining how industrial animal agriculture was built upon and continues to propagate racism. The harms to humans of color perpetuated by this system are myriad and serious, ranging from physical to psychological and from troubling to life-threatening. This Article first examines how the animal agribusiness industry has harmed farmers and ranchers of color since the early 20th century through government-sponsored racist policies and practices. Second, the Article studies harms to workers, from those who produce animals in CAFOs to those who process them in slaughterhouses, most of whom are people of color, people whose first language is not English, and undocumented immigrants. Third, the Article considers harms to people who live near agribusiness facilities, so many of whom are people of color that these harms are considered environmental racism. Fourth, the Article assesses harms to consumers who have been shepherded into marginalized regions without access to more nutritious options, and who are forced to support the industrialized animal agriculture system that continues to compromise their health at a disproportionate rate. Finally, this Article explores legal steps that would help begin to redress these harms, but it does not purport to solve the problem or “save” those of whom animal agribusiness has taken advantage; rather, it seeks to contribute another voice to those challenging that industrial model.
Many thanks to Professors T. Anansi Wilson, Jyoti Nanda, Matthew Leibman, Menesh Patel, Shayak Sarkar, and Karrigan Bork for their thoughtful comments and suggestions. As always, endless gratitude to Scott Lee for his support, kindness, and patience.
Courtney G. Lee, Racist Animal Agriculture, 25 CUNY. L. Rev. 199 (2022).