Secondary Symptoms #4: The Covid Kings

This week, we put the pieces together and solve a different kind of mystery at the heart of Tiger King.

I liked the show so much because it felt like the escapism I needed during a brutal pandemic. But actually, it wasn’t escapist at all. Because according to our best theories, Covid-19 is the result of unsafe practices in the exotic animal trade. So we were all watching a documentary about the very industry that put us in isolation, and we didn’t seem to realize it!

Labour studies scholar Kendra Coulter did realize this. She hopes that Covid-19, and Tiger King, just might change the way we think about zoonotic diseases. We have a wide-ranging conversation about animal welfare and workers rights, and what that has to do with Covid-19.

We also talk factory farms with Alex Blanchette, author of the new book Porkopolis. It’s a dystopian ethnography of a small company town that is home to an enormous pork processing plant. This is not what you expect; it’s not a searing expose of abuse, but rather a description of business as usual. Alex reveals the grand technoscientific ambitions of these companies; how they hope to exert total control over the pig, and over the workers who process them.

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