Ph.D. Summer School: Zoophthoria: The Exploitation and Destruction of Animals, Milan, Sept. 4-5, 2019 (registration deadline: Jun. 30, 2019)

A Ph. D. Summer School will be held at the University of Milan on September 4th-5th; it is open to Ph. D. Students, Doctors of Philosophy or research fellows (assegnisti) whose research concerns antispeciecism, animal rights, animalism and, in general, Philosophy as an instrument to think and fight against animal exploitation.

As a title for this event we have chosen the term zoophthoria, a neologism we coined, which borrows the terms zoon (ζῷον, animal) and phthoria(ϕϑορία, annihilation/ destruction/ruin) from the ancient Greek language and wants to express all the forms of use and abuse perpetrated on non-human animals throughout history.

Our guest speakers will be:

●Kristin Andrews (York University, Toronto)

● Alberto Giovanni Biuso (University of Catania)

● Francesca Caloni (University of Milan)

● Raffaella Colombo (University of Milan)

● Alessandro Fazzi (LAV Legal Counsel)

● Gianfranco Mormino (University of Milan)

●Maria Elide Vanutelli (University of Milan)


The relationship between humans and other animals is defined by Hobbes as “a perpetual war”, not as an erratic aggression, but rather as a series of strategies and tactics that aim at establishing a lasting dominion over the enemy. This war is dramatically asymmetrical and not just because we were the ones who unleashed it: the disproportion of the forces at play and their different organization are, in fact, huge. Currently, our ability to control is substantially complete: we bring into existence, let live and kill an ever increasing number of animals for our own purposes, also because of the massive population growth that we have experienced in the last two centuries. Every year we destroy billions of living bodies to nourish, clothe, treat or amuse ourselves and others die as “collateral damage” of processes such as urbanization or deforestation.

The modalities of this war, which has produced deep changes in both sides, are the subject of this event: in this conflict with humans, non-human animals have undergone great changes that have accelerated evolutionary processes that normally would take much more time, and have triggered others that are entirely artificial.

The first major change was the domestication, which represents the turning point in animal history: with it the act of killing, which is the only outcome when hunting, becomes only the final moment of a process that has as its essential characteristics the act of bringing the animal into existence, in ways and times useful to us humans only and the act of exploiting its vital processes throughout its lifespan. The animal is killed only after a captivity that coincides with its whole life, the capturing becomes a permanently possessing and the bodies themselves are modeled, throughout generations, according to the laws of an increasingly refined eugenics.

The second change, which took place mostly in more recent times, is the extinction of entire species, subjected to a widespread destruction. The weapons used are not just traps and rifles but, more efficiently, the destruction of habitats and their poisoning.

The third big change, which is still at the beginning but rapidly developing, is the genetic engineering, which sees the emergence of a variety of living beings  never before existed, assembled in laboratories thanks to the manipulation of DNA. The purpose to produce “useful” living beings (useful to human health, knowledge, nutrition, etc.) is achieved in an even quicker and more targeted way than it is with eugenics alone, which has never been able to completely disengage from a certain randomness in its outcomes. The animals thus generated, not being the result of a selection that is determined by the best adaptation, obviously present suffering phenotypes in many cases, which condemn them to a short life and to incurable congenital or premature pathologies.

These weapons have not been used just against animals: there was a “domestication” of human groups, selected by the slavers according to the individual’s physical capacities, just like the breeders did with the herds. We have witnessed attempts to extinguish entire populations, both with pure and simple violence and with the radical transformation of the territory; lastly, we are already starting to see, at the level of technical possibilities, the first signs of a genetic manipulation of human beings, so far restricted by laws on whose effectiveness it is not possible to rely too much, at least in the long run.

However, the war we are talking about has also changed us in another way: the exercise of dominion over animals has shaped human societies in ways that we have yet to begin to understand, addressing them to a culture of death whose damages are everywhere. The war against animals has been the laboratory in which techniques of social control and abuse of power were invented and applied also to completely human contexts.


To participate you must submit your application by June 30th 2019, by sending an e-mail to stating:

● First and Last Name

● University of origin

●Topic of the current research, with brief description (max. 500 words)

●Personal motivation for participation

The outcome of the selection will be communicated by July 7th.

Applicants will be able to read in advance the abstracts provided by the speakers and, therefore, prepare for a better experience of listening and discussion. The first day (September 4th, h.9-19) will be dedicated to our guest speakers (whose speech will be each of 45’+15’ of Q&A), while on the second day (September 5th, h.9-13.30) the selected candidates will have about 15’ each to present their research project and discuss it with the aforementioned speakers.

No registration fee is required.

At the end of the Summer School, participants will obtain a Certificate of Attendance.

All participants will be offered lunch on September 4th and in each of the three sessions there will be a coffee break at the expense of the University.

For questions or inquiries, do not hesitate to contact us writing to:

The organizers:

Gianfranco Mormino

Raffaella Colombo

Maria Elide Vanutelli

Arabella Soroldoni

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