Secondary Symptoms #4: The Covid Kings

This week, we put the pieces together and solve a different kind of mystery at the heart of Tiger King.

I liked the show so much because it felt like the escapism I needed during a brutal pandemic. But actually, it wasn’t escapist at all. Because according to our best theories, Covid-19 is the result of unsafe practices in the exotic animal trade. So we were all watching a documentary about the very industry that put us in isolation, and we didn’t seem to realize it!

Labour studies scholar Kendra Coulter did realize this. She hopes that Covid-19, and Tiger King, just might change the way we think about zoonotic diseases. We have a wide-ranging conversation about animal welfare and workers rights, and what that has to do with Covid-19.

We also talk factory farms with Alex Blanchette, author of the new book Porkopolis. It’s a dystopian ethnography of a small company town that is home to an enormous pork processing plant. This is not what you expect; it’s not a searing expose of abuse, but rather a description of business as usual. Alex reveals the grand technoscientific ambitions of these companies; how they hope to exert total control over the pig, and over the workers who process them.

You can find a transcript of this episode here.


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This episode was produced by Jay Cockburn and Gordon Katic.

Our theme song and original music is by our composer, Mike BarberDakota Koop is our graphic designer. Our production manager is David Tobiasz, and executive producers are Gordon Katic and Sam Fenn.

This episode was funded in part by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada. This is part of wider project challenging ideas in liberal environmental thought. The project was advised by Jessica Dempsey at the University of British Columbia, and Rosemary Collard from Simon Fraser University.

Cited is produced out of the Centre of Ethics at the University of Toronto, which is on the traditional land of Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat Peoples. Cited is also produced out of the Michael Smith Laboratories at the University of British Columbia — that’s on the unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations.

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