Nowhere is the act of violence more complete, sustained, and systematically codified than in the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC). Through overt physical domination, the psychological and bodily control of inmates is maintained. Lobbying by the private prison industry and the war on drugs and terror have fueled the increase in the United States prison population and have contributed to the commodification and objectification of inmate bodies. Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) perpetuate violence in organized and efficient ways. The commodified animal body—controlled through confinement, restriction, and pain—systemically parallels the treatment of inmate bodies. Just as the PIC maintains itself though lobbying efforts, law, and manipulation of public opinion, CAFOs have relied on lobbying efforts, deregulation, and profiteering to fuel growth. Central to these industries is the invisibility of their operations. Both of them rely on a “post regulatory” systematized objectification of bodies, the visceral nature of which would be publicly inflammatory, and thus detrimental to economic profit. Therefore, these industries have created hidden geographies that conceal their physical locations and processes while at the same time normalizing the notion that Americans need prisons to stay safe and meat to stay healthy. This article discusses the historical development of these industries and examines the meta-structures that sustain them in order to highlight the violent and oppressive social, political, and economic structures and forces behind the treatment of inmate and animal bodies.
We extend the notion of shared suffering first articulated by Donna Haraway (2008), and developed by Jocelyne Porcher (2011) to suggest that while shared suffering is unintentional in production environments, an ethic of intentionality should be employed. Intentional shared suffering evolves when individuals are given the infrastructure and opportunity to openly embrace the bonds they create with the production animals they work with. We apply and compare this framework in two pig/swine production facilities: an organic farm and a confined feeding operation both operated by a major research university to identify what contributes to unintentional and intentional shared suffering at each facility. Following three years of participant observation and interviews within both facilities, our findings clearly demonstrate that environment; shared interests among members; and leadership all contribute to an ethic of intentional shared suffering. Surprisingly, we also find that the cross-pollination of the two programs/environments facilitated community development, teaching/learning and research opportunities.