Close Call

The Irish Times – Letters

When you confine such huge numbers of animals in such a claustrophobic, unnatural environment (the broiler chicken industry is another case in point), when margins are tight and competition from the Far East (where welfare standards are even worse than our own) threatens to overrun the domestic industry, when profit trumps welfare every time – the possibilities of disaster are everywhere.

I agree with the point, but feel compelled to take issue with the use of the word ‘claustrophobic’ here as an adjective to describe an environment. Claustrophobic is used to describe a person who fears the effects of closed spaces. It could reasonably apply to animals too, I imagine.

It is not the closed space as such that is claustrophobic, but the subject’s reaction to it. One would not describe the plains of the Serengeti as ‘agoraphobic’ even though they may produce, through the fact of their existence, agoraphobia in people. Same thing with gays and homophobia, spiders and arachnophobia, pig meat and carcinophobia, and so on. But then again, claustrophobogenic sounds obnoxious.

PS I know the title is crap, but what I initially thought was an original thought has already been done to death by the internet.


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December 2008
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