Animal industrial complex (AIC) is the accumulation of interests responsible for institutionalized exploitation of non-human animals. It entirely differs from individual acts of animal cruelty in that it is an institutionalized animal exploitation. It is one of the main topics of critical animal studies.
The term animal industrial complex was coined by the Dutch cultural anthropologist and philosopher Barbara Noske in her 1989 book Humans and Other Animals, saying that animals "have become reduced to mere appendages of computers and machines." The term relates the practices, organizations, and overall industry that turns animals into food and other commodities to the military-industrial complex. Richard Twine later refined the concept, regarding it as the "partly opaque and multiple set of networks and relationships between the corporate (agricultural) sector, governments, and public and private science. With economic, cultural, social and affective dimensions it encompasses an extensive range of practices, technologies, images, identities and markets."
The origin of the animal industrial complex can be traced back to antiquity when humans began domesticating animals. However, it was only since 1945 that the animal industrial complex began to grow significantly. According to Kim Stallwood, the animal industrial complex is "an integral part of the neoliberal, transnational order of increasing privatization and decreasing government intervention, favouring transnational corporations and global capital." According to Sorenson, two milestones mark the shift in human attitudes toward animals that empowered the animal industrial complex, namely, Chicago and its stockyards and slaughterhouses from 1865 and the post-World War II developments such as intensive factory farms, industrial fishing, and xenotransplantation.Upton Sinclair's 1906 novel The Jungle explicitly describes the mistreatment of animals during their lives until they end up at the slaughterhouse.Charles Patterson's Eternal Treblinka explains how the disassembly of animals in the slaughterhouses inspired Henry Ford's assembling of cars in factories, and how it further influenced the Third Reich in Nazi Germany in building concentration camps and gas chambers.
The animal industrial complex breeds animals in the billions in order to make products and services for human consumption. All these animals are considered legal property of the animal industrial complex. The animal industrial complex is said to have transformed the already confused relationship between human and non-human animals, significantly increasing the consumption and threatening human survival. The pervasive nature of the animal industrial complex is such that it evades attention.