Alienated Contact: Changes in the Relation to Animals in the UK and the USA from the Eighteenth to the Early Twentieth Centuries

Tsovel, Ariel. "Alienated Contact: Changes in the Relation to Animals in the UK and the USA from the Eighteenth to the Early Twentieth Centuries." In Human Beings and Other Animals in Historical Perspective, edited by Benjamin Arbel, Joseph Terkel, and Sophia Menache, 333-387 (Jerusalem: Carmel, 2007). (Hebrew full article)


The overwhelming majority of human beings in the modern world is alienated from the great majority of animals on earth, and especially from the billions of agriculturally exploited animals: people do not consider them emotionally and morally, and do not act toward them as feeling and thinking entities. This phenomenon is mentioned by many authors, yet its analysis is deficient. Historical research often presents this phenomenon as if alienation is a sort of social vacuum or a lack of connection that suddenly replaced the old, complex and tight interspecific social order of traditional agriculture. Contrary to this common view, the present article describes the process of change in agricultural society throughout the industrialization of agriculture as a continuous process, and the alienation that took over the humans-animal relations is described as a locus of rich mental, social, managerial and technological content. The article focuses on human alienation toward animals, without attempting to assess the condition of animals and their own attitude to humans.

The present article describes the gradual transformation that traditional agricultural societies went through during the process of industrialization, and it presents the developing alienation between humans and other animals as a condition rich in practical and mental content. The countries in question are the cradle of the process before spreading into other countries – first Britain, and later the United States. The article separates changes in the agricultural practices, as described explicitly in historical sources, from changes in human attitudes to animals, which are often merely implied in the sources. Each of these two kinds of change is divided into three phases that were closely linked in the beginning of the historical process, yet became more distinct as time went by: the exploitation of animals on farms; their use by consumers; and the increasingly expanding intermediate phase – transportation, pre-slaughter, killing, and processing of the dead bodies.