Open Access

Exploring Biopower in the Regulation of Farm Animal Bodies: Genetic Policy Interventions in UK Livestock

Genomics, Society and Policy20073:82

DOI: 10.1186/1746-5354-3-2-82

Published: 15 August 2007

Abstract

This paper explores the analytical relevance of Foucault's notion of biopower in the context of regulating and managing non-human lives and populations, specifically those animals that are the focus of livestock breeding based on genetic techniques. The concept of biopower is seen as offering theoretical possibilities precisely because it is concerned with the regulation of life and of populations. The paper approaches the task of testing the 'analytic mettle' of biopower through an analysis of four policy documents concerned with farm animal genetics: the UK's National Scrapie Plan (2003); the UK National Action Plan on Farm Animal Genetic Resources (2006); the Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Committee's report on Animals and Biotechnology (2002); and the Farm Animal Welfare Council's report on the Welfare Implications of Animal Breeding and Breeding Technologies in Commercial Agriculture (2004). Of interest is whether and how the four policy case studies articulate a form of biopower in relation to human-livestock animal relations in the context of genetic approaches to livestock breeding, and how biopower is variably expressed in relation to the different policy issues addressed. In concluding, the paper considers the overall applicability and relevance of biopower in the context of regulating animal lives within livestock breeding, highlighting both possibilities and limitations, and offers suggestions for taking forward research on livestock populations from a neo-Foucaultian perspective.