Gabe Rosenberg

Gabriel Rosenberg—No Scrubs Livestock Breeding, State Power, and Eugenic Knowledge in the Early 20th Century United States


Presented Wednesday, March 20
12:00–1:30pm
117 Wilson Hall
Lunch will be provided
Please RSVP to Aida Barnes amb7hh@virginia.edu
before March 15

Abstract
This talk explores the “Better Sires-Better Stock” campaign of the United States Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Animal Industry. Initiated at the end of World War I, the Campaign aimed to improve the quality of the nation’s livestock by promoting the use of purebred studs in beef, dairy, pork, and other forms of animal agriculture. The Campaign pursued these goals by educating farmers about the value of purebred male animals, securing financing for their use, and emphatically urging farmers to “eradicate” inferior, or “scrub,” sires immediately. In the most sensational and popular element of the program, members of the local bar collaborated with agents of the Campaign to put a scrub sire on public trial for its hereditary defects. Before audiences of hundreds and thousands at state and county fairs, juries of farmers weighed evidence, testimony, and speeches before condemning the unfortunate scrub sires to death.

The trials and the Campaign linked capitalist logics of value to the governance of reproduction, populations, and racialized violence. Scrub livestock eradication programs circulated knowledge about livestock breeding and food production. But the Campaign also educated rural publics about the threat posed by the reproduction of eugenically unfit persons, as well as the capacities of the state to effectively govern life—human and non-human alike. More broadly, the Campaign shows how livestock breeding was a popular arena for millions of Americans to explore the interrelations among inheritance, value, and reproduction. The talk encourages us to consider how human interactions with non-human animals shaped the history of American race.