Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies

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Farming: Animals or machines?

Les Mitchell


The intensive farming industry, where nonhuman animals are treated as machines in a production process, is abhorrent to many people, and more traditional farming may seem more acceptable ethically. Nowadays, one finds products on the market with labels such as organic and green, which suggest more humane systems of farming and certainly ones in which the nonhumans are apparently not perceived as machines. This article analyses articles that appeared in a general farming and lifestyle magazine over a period of six months and finds a strong discourse of production where the nonhuman animals are linguistically constructed as raw materials, production machines and product. The animal production machines are treated as brands to some extent, with new ones being manufactured using genetics to meet the specific needs of the industry. Despite the bucolic image portrayed by traditional farming, the production discourse objectifies and commodifies the nonhumans, emphasising the underlying apprehension of them as objects and an instrumental means to an economic end.

Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 2013, 31(3): 299–309
AJOL African Journals Online