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|All Authors / Contributors:||Agustin Fuentes|
In his novel "Elizabeth Costello" (2003), J. M. Coetzee's title character espouses philosophical perspectives on cruelty and the human condition in a series of fictionalized lectures. In particular, she takes on the question of human cruelty to animals. As novelist, Coetzee relies on lyrical statements about the nature of cruelty, analogies between the atrocities of fascism and factory farms, and ethical elitism to address these issues. In this article, I use anthropological data to investigate such constructed notions of "human cruelty" and "human nature." I end with a discussion of cross-cultural variation in animal use by humans and of the current animal rights movement. The goal of this article is to engage, anthropologically, perspectives on cruelty in human natures and our relations with other animals.