This discussion of folk tales definitely increases my respect for them in understanding the history of domestication. It appears this is happening for others as well as myself too. The idea presented in these folktales is not a new one: domestication emerging due to mutually beneficial relationships. However, it is within these folk takes that we can better understand the culture of reindeer. To understand this culture is to understand why reindeer are different than other domesticated animals.
We can grant to other cultures the same significance to animals, people and ideas that we recognize in our culture. But, is that enough? The question that dictates our complete understanding then is, can we thoroughly understand any past (or present) culture without being brought up and have lived according to its forms?
How limited are we in our current paradigm?
To some degree I think folktales can help our understanding.
Diamonds theory on Animal domestication explains that geography and the type of animals available for human interaction will determine the ultimate “progress” of society. Camilla points to the lack of plant agriculture central to diamonds theory. It is due, as discussed, partially to the harsh environment that the Envey people remained grounded in their traditions. It may be the culture and tradition that influenced more how reindeer eventually did not change the “progress” of the Envey society.
Although reindeer are domesticated animals bound by ecological constraints to exponential growth, their symbolism and value to culture still persists and I think is the reason they never became modern domestic animals.
Where to begin? The troubling idea of progress is one I have thought about in previous classes. Learning about American history it was discovered to be a concept that created intended and unintended consequences (good and bad, subjectively) but is a notion that is also a part of our American identity. We are determined to consider “progress” as a way that individuals in America can succeed – that by progressing as a country anything good (and an exponential amount of good at that) is possible individually.
It is similarly true that we are beginning to think as a society (of at least the higher educated sector of the United States) that what is best for “us” might not be best for others. That the cheep products/food and globalized system of standardized production disproportionally distributes global wealth and even reinforces those unequal poverty-wealth relationships.
Valuing others based on simple acceptance of difference would be great theoretically but they too are participating in some form to the globalized system. Therefore it is difficult to even consider societies apart from ours as just “different” when these “different” peoples too contribute to our ideas of progress.
Let’s consider Native Americans. Their way of life to many is viewed as a simpler, happier and more harmonious way of living. Although there were many factors at play during the time English settlers came to the new world (90% population collapse, disease, etc.), the Native Americans to some extent did adopt the progressive ideas and technologies readily – because they were useful. For example, it was not long that domesticated animals like swine were being claimed by Native American tribes. It may be because they had no choice given the pervasive culture (takeover, really) of the Europeans but it cannot be denied the ideas were adopted because they were useful and they liked them.
This is a big generalization but worthy of consideration… let’s just be careful here. Just as Native Americans adopted Western Ideas because they were liked so too is this happening with developing countries across the globe. These countries want the conveniences and infrastructures of progress the developed world has. So our idea of progress in 2013 is arguably the developed world with its current systems.
So if that’s our idea of progress the real question Dr. C contributed really is, who has the right to declare good? How do we critique our current ideas of global progress so that good is ensured? And possibly more importantly, whose responsibility is it to ensure this thoughtful progress as the world continues to make history?
P.S. if our understanding of good progress comes from our ideas and values for the meaning of life then this becomes, perhaps, the most important consideration for all debates about the future and how to get others to comprehend your point of view.
I like how your post begins with the idea that there is no set definition or origin for domestication, which is so encompassing. To begin framing in this way you allow your thoughts to be valid while leaving room for more interpretation and analysis.
Just as you have built and refuted Bulliet’s assertions, I will elaborate further on some of your contributions questioning motives (an ax to grind!) and logic.
The idea that only a select few animals can ever be domesticated is an interesting concept. On one hand it appears that the evolutionary human-animal relationships were such to make domestication possible for only a few species a long time ago. Thus, those animals who were not domesticated can reasonably be expected to be lacking the qualities needed for humans to effectively do so. On the other hand, your logic of a business man intentionally domesticating canaries (and only canaries) because canaries are what was desirable makes sense. Following that same logic it can be reasoned that the domesticated animals came to be this way simply because those were the useful animals, not the others.
Bill also brings up an interesting point. Do we have the means to keep non-domesticated animals around long enough to make domestication happen in other animals? The to-be-discovered answer to that question will tell us in time what qualities had to be tamed and how long it takes… if, that is, we can prove it possible.
As I dive into the readings this week and after read this post, utilizing Bulliet’s categories for understanding our individual and collective relationships to animals is becoming a particularly interesting understanding with ever-growing flaws. The unintentional decisions and following logical ethical deductions that led to the adoption of your vegetarian diet (both with support for and against Bulliet’s post-domestic paradigm of influence by guilt) are different from my ethical reasons to discontinue eating (most…) industrially processed meat.
Our relative decisions of how often, what kind, and for what reasons meat is or is not individually consumed can gain some validly from Bulliet’s categories, as we essentially agreed upon in class. What is maybe a more useful framework in our meat-eating habits, however, comes perhaps from understanding these environmental relations, as described in “From trust to domination” as manifestations not only of human relationships to animals but also in those relationships that position individuals in society. Bulliet discussed cultural paradigms for understanding human-animal relationships but fails to acknowledge the apparent importance of our social relationships and experiences that contribute to individual transformation of environmental-relations. Or in this case – the rationale for a reduction or increase in personal meat consumption.
For the moment let’s not consider important reactions to the changing human-animal relationships as indicators of our behavior to meat eating. Instead let’s think about the influence of social relationships. Do our meat eating habits reinforce our personal spiritual and moral standings? Or are our habits based more on collective social norms? Or if it is from the duel influence of both ideas (and also human-animal relationships) what factors play the most important role in determining our meat eating habits today and for humans throughout time?
From what I have read of this week’s readings the way we eat is dependent on how we relate to our environment and that relation is, for the sake of space, contingent on many cultural and individual beliefs that have and will continue to change throughout time.
I like how as an animal science major you explain, “There isn’t anything evil about it,” (the meat production industry). I do believe there are many problems in the ways in which we produce meat for a globalized system. However, from the industry’s prospective the way meat is produced is the most rational and logical way for our subsistence (and our respective GNPs).
My justification for being a meat eater may be because I’m not afraid to understand realities of the industry… even if my choices are very selective. This brings up another important question you considered: What about small organic family farms and their role in creating a domestic/post-domestic future?
The practical implications of the categories Bulliet presents are of understanding how we individually and collectively fit into them, and that, at least, is worth discussion.
I guess It should not come as a surprise that you’ve only been on a farm once. But it was a surprise. For me, farm life was basically my childhood. It was not a traditional farm. We had (and have) small-scale chickens, eggs, beef cattle, and also a garden. I remember the first time my parents slaughtered chickens in our back yard. My grandma came over, each chicken was hung by its feet while its head was cut off and then it was dipped into a giant boiling cauldron of water for de-feathering. Some chickens weren’t tied by their feet well and I would help chase after the beheaded chickens running though the yard (that is after I screamed the first time). I think I was six years old or so.
I’m not a vegetarian but I do only eat meet that has been locally and sustainably produced. It’s not that I have guilt associated with our treatment of animals. I experience guilt with how our treatment of the animals transfers all the cost to the environment (and thus, the consumer). It is perhaps of this cost transfer that we know the meat is less-healthy and possibly unethical through many more lenses than just animal treatment.
Bill, your post about endangered species is an interesting consideration. The Energy and Ecosystems article explains that all organisms have a constant and never-ending impact on their ecosystems. When considered at surface value this assertion is easily rational and easy to accept. However, when considering the relative importance of protecting global biodiversity this question of influence is more complex.
If we are fundamentally changing the nature of an endangered animal by attempting to preserve its existence – is the ecological integrity of the animal actually preserved? Beyond that we can too consider whether animal domestication is simply a “war against nature”? Is it possible to distinguish natural selection happening by random genetic change and selection that was human intent?
You make a very strong argument for how human ingenuity (plus some luck) and geographic location allowed for domestication evolution. It’s true that the human domestication of plants and animals allowed us to progress as civilizations since more energy could be used for various processes.
To answer the question, “how far is too far” we must, I think, determine and discuss the conscious intention. There may be a point in evolutionary history where clear, rational decisions were make to produce certain outcomes. If these can be determined – can responsibility be placed on those parties to provide better outcomes? Or is it impossible to determine intention – leaving evolutionary chaos to govern the way thing are?