The Future Food Hub invites UU and UMC Utrecht researchers and students to participate in this lunch meeting with Professor Mike Goodman from the University of Reading.
Abstract: Dubbed ‘empathy machines’ by Wired magazine, virtual reality headsets are being used as politicised technological devices. iAnimal, an animal welfare/vegan activist group, is engaged in using these empathy machines to intervene in the everyday understandings of where industrially produced meat comes from and convince viewers to shift to vegan diets. Viewed through an intervention event by iAnimal with my third-year students, this paper explores and analyses the techno-biopolitics of virtual reality in the service of animal welfare, changing eating behaviours and the digitisation of foodscapes. In particular, I work to closely analyse the iAnimal ‘experience’: through an immersive visualisation and auditory experience of suffering, iAnimal creates a kind of thanato-biopolitics in action that is as felt as it is visual. We are asked to make ‘close encounters’, visceral, body-to-body connections with these companion species through a thanato-biopolitical imaginary, all of which is supported by the activists’ haunting introductory statements about the normalisation of the cruelty of industrial livestock production. Though this novel network of digital visual and auditory data in the virtual reality experience, iAnimal points to the possibilities of a ‘virtual food politics’ designed to re-shape foodscapes.
Professor Bas Rodenburg will reflect on professors's Goodman lecture. Rodenburg works at the Animal welfare & Laboratory Animal Sciences research group at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. His research aims at improving the methodology for assessment of animal welfare.
Keywords: Dietary transition; Animal welfare; Industrial livestock production; More-than-human; Foodscapes; Food politics; Vegan activism; Virtual reality.
About Professor Mike Goodman, Professor of Environment and Development/Human Geography - University of Reading
Goodman is widely recognized, among other things, for his work on alternative food networks, on food politics, and on celebrities as shapers of environmental discourses.
See his profile here