Beasts in the Garden City: animals, humans, and settlement on Canada's west coast




Cunningham, Tim

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This thesis examines the numerous roles that nonhumans (and especially livestock) played in the creation, maintenance, and reproduction of settler space in the colonial city of Victoria, British Columbia, and details the gradual processes by which city space paradoxically became designated as such through the selective removal of animal life over the turn of the twentieth century. I use extensive archival material, newspaper coverage, and secondary analysis to explore the varied roles nonhumans played in the establishment of settler society, and investigate the ways that animals were paradoxically fundamental and antithetical to modernizing and industrializing settler space across nearly a century of urban history. In the earliest days of colonial settlement, when Victoria was established as a fur-trading post and depot for the Hudson’s Bay Company’s Columbia Department, animals played crucial dispossessive roles in forcibly reorganizing Indigenous territory and establishing settler space, and were indeed vital to the broader British colonizing project. As the city experienced dramatic demographic growth and tightening urban space across two gold rushes in the mid-nineteenth century, Victoria’s livestock faced increased scrutiny from legislators and citizens through the application of the common law category of “public nuisance.” Urban subsistence strategies such as pig-keeping and free-range grazing began to encroach on settler property and offend nascent middle-class ratepayers as the city grew in population and density, causing a selective process of removal, even as some livestock (such as milk-producing cattle) remained vital to many of the city’s households. Yet new understandings of disease transmission and sanitation sparked the gradual removal of domestic milch cows from Victoria’s backyards and lots, as medical scrutiny began to view the city’s dairy supply as a potential vector for the spread of the “White Plague,” bovine tuberculosis. The resulting consolidation of privately-owned and co-operative dairies would largely spell the end to urban livestock husbandry in the city, relocating nonhuman bodies out of sight and out of mind. Meanwhile, the extension of a cattle frontier into the mainland Interior Plateau continued a process of dispossession instigated on Lekwungen territories in Victoria, inflicting devastation on grassland ecologies and Indigenous livelihoods in the arid interior of British Columbia, while the injection of outside capital and advances in transportation, retail and supply chain infrastructure placed consumers at a greater and greater spatial and conceptual divide from the animals with whom they had formerly shared their urban spaces.



history, victoria, british columbia, urban, bc, environmental, animal, nonhuman, supply chains, food, livestock