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Making Machines of Animals

The International Livestock Exposition

Neal A. Knapp

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How the Chicago International Livestock Exposition leveraged the eugenics movement to transform animals into machines and industrialize American agriculture.

In 1900, the Chicago International Livestock Exposition became the epicenter of agricultural reform that focused on reinventing animals' bodies to fit a modern, industrial design. Chicago meatpackers partnered with land-grant university professors to create the International—a spectacle on the scale of a world's fair—with the intention of setting the standard for animal quality and, in doing so, transformed American agriculture.

In Making\u2026

How the Chicago International Livestock Exposition leveraged the eugenics movement to transform animals into machines and industrialize American agriculture.

In 1900, the Chicago International Livestock Exposition became the epicenter of agricultural reform that focused on reinventing animals' bodies to fit a modern, industrial design. Chicago meatpackers partnered with land-grant university professors to create the International—a spectacle on the scale of a world's fair—with the intention of setting the standard for animal quality and, in doing so, transformed American agriculture.

In Making Machines of Animals, Neal A. Knapp explains the motivations of both the meatpackers and the professors, describing how they deployed the International to redefine animality itself. Both professors and packers hoped to replace so-called scrub livestock with "improved" animals and created a new taxonomy of animal quality based on the burgeoning eugenics movement. The International created novel definitions of animal superiority and codified new norms, resulting in a dramatic shift in animal weight, body size, and market age. These changes transformed the animals from multipurpose to single-purpose products. These standardized animals and their dependence on off-the-farm inputs and exchanges limited farmer choices regarding husbandry and marketing, ultimately undermining any goals for balanced farming or the maintenance and regeneration of soil fertility.

Drawing on land-grant university research and publications, meatpacker records and propaganda, and newspaper and agricultural journal articles, Knapp critiques the supposed market-oriented, efficiency-driven industrial reforms proffered by the International, which were underpinned by irrational, racist ideologies. The livestock reform movement not only resulted in cruel and violent outcomes for animals but also led to twentieth-century crops and animal husbandry that were rife with inefficiencies and agricultural vulnerabilities.

Reviews

Reviews

Knapp reveals the rich history and influence of the International Livestock Exposition in this beautifully-crafted book. Highlighting the human reformers and food animals who stole the show ring spotlight, readers will marvel at Knapp's ability to weave histories of science, technology, and agriculture.

In tracing the history of Chicago's International Livestock Exposition, product of a sometimes uneasy alliance between industrial meatpackers and Land Grant Universities, Knapp illuminates a crucial nerve center in the industrialization of animal bodies, a site where eugenic fantasies and dreams of efficiency were translated into new market and landscape realities.

At a moment when American pigs and chickens are invisibly confined in barns and relentlessly torqued for profit, Neal A. Knapp takes us back to when public displays and industrial propaganda were mobilized to transform the nature of animal life. This profound and engaging book uncovers the historical dreams and infrastructures that underlie factory farming.

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Book Details

Release Date
Publication Date
Status
Preorder
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
216
ISBN
9781421446554
Illustration Description
34 b&w photos
Table of Contents

Introduction: The World's Most Conspicuous Livestock Show
1. Meatpackers and Professors Take Aim at "Scrubs"
2. Breeding Up Livestock
3. Recreating the Animal Body
4. From Dreaming to Teaching the Animal

Introduction: The World's Most Conspicuous Livestock Show
1. Meatpackers and Professors Take Aim at "Scrubs"
2. Breeding Up Livestock
3. Recreating the Animal Body
4. From Dreaming to Teaching the Animal Fantasy
5. New Animals, New Problems
Epilogue: The Legacy of the Modern Animal
Bibliography
Index
Notes

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

Neal A. Knapp

Neal A. Knapp (MISHAWAKA, IN) is the founder of BWL Roachdale and a practicing agriculturalist and researcher working at the nexus of commercial and regenerative farming.