The Language of Zoodemocracy: Contesting Human Sovereignty Over Animals

Pablo Perez Castello

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis examines the role language plays in forming the subjectivities of Westerners to hold a position of dominion over animals, and discloses the existence of a shared animal language between human and non-human animals that enables us to make decisions and co-author democracies.

Existing literature in animal philosophy and critical animal studies correctly understands that we humans decide language, i.e., we create terms and redefine concepts. However, it is my contention that animal scholars overlook the fact that language is not only a tool at Westerners’ disposal, Westerners do not decide to be born into language. By drawing on continental philosophy, post-colonialism and critical race theory, I argue that language is all-pervasive, constitutes the subjectivities of Westerners, and that language plays a crucial role in producing violence against animals: it determines what we decide; how we feel, think and act; and structures our legal and political institutions.

In the first chapters I substantiate the previous claims through several case studies which disclose language’s all-pervasiveness and its role in producing anthropocentrism, racism, and different forms of violence against animals. The thesis then transitions towards a more affirmative ecofeminist-vegan terrain, which contests human dominion over animals, attunes the reader to our embodied animality, and prepares the ground for the argument that humans and animals share an animal language.

I justify the latter argument by theorising from and with animals, which entails studying the lives and practices of actual animals through ethological evidence. I find that the divisions between bare reality/conceptuality and body/mind are mistaken, and theorise what I call a shared sensory-conceptual space within which human and non-human animals feel conceptually: we touch water as water, taste bananas as bananas, smell smoke as smoke and so on. I demonstrate that by existing in this shared sensory-conceptual space we speak the same animal language and make decisions, and in many cases political decisions. This leads me to contest the argument, made by some political philosophers, that animals are not political agents. Lastly, I offer a concrete way to institutionalise the political representation of animals, and imagine the democratic system that would emerge from this thesis: Zooterrapolis.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Sands, Danielle, Supervisor
  • Whistler, Daniel, Advisor
Award date1 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • sovereignty
  • violence
  • animal
  • western language
  • animal language
  • zoodemocracy
  • animal political agency
  • animal law
  • ecofeminism
  • human dominion over animals

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