I Think I Wasn’t Talkative Enough This Week

Or: Camilla, Why are You Blogging Extra?


After leaving class this week, I realized that I had failed to communicate two of my highly relevant thoughts during our (slightly meandering) discussion. Maybe I was thinking too hard about taking notes or maybe I just think slowly. I don’t know. Anyway, here they are, in no particular order.

1. I do not dislike Bulliet. I actually think that Hunters, Herders, and Hamburgers is eminently readable and presents a lot of really interesting ways of looking at (and categorizing) the past. I think that our class (including me!) has beaten up on Bulliet because he is an easy target–he is highly and unapologetically opinionated. However, I do not always think that that is bad. Sometimes, particularly as an older academic (as Bulliet is), you can and should express your opinion without apologizing for it.
2. I think that there is a huge amount of value to knowledge for the sake of knowledge. Of course, application is important, but what is application based upon, if not knowledge? What inspired us first to understand the inner working of an atom or to fly to the moon? Knowledge. Poets don’t write poems because they are useful. I would argue that similarly, true scientists don’t do science because it is useful. How can we be of any service to the world, anyway, until we have a solid knowledge of its workings? If knowledge is not a high priority, the application or utility of the knowledge will certainly be second-rate.

Drink Your Kumis – Or Fermentation as Humanity’s Best Friend

The discussion about Erica’s terrific post about (among other things) milk and the Mayan apocalypse reminds me that fermented beverages are important, not just to the social lives of contemporary college students, but to the ancient and enduring practices of pastoralism on the Eurasian steppe.  For many people of Turkic and Mongol origin, kumis an alcoholic beverage made from fermented mare’s milk was (and still is) a dietary staple.

For those of you who are wondering about the logistical challenges of milking mares, here is captivating, contemporary account. mare milking in Kirgyzstan

(BTW, the foal in this image has the same kind of leopard spotting found in the Pech Merl image on our mother blog!) And fear not, city dwellers, and others who don’t have access to their own mares, can also imbibe kumis from a bottle.

Kumis bottle with glassKumis’s relative from the Caucasus, kefir, is made from goat, cow or sheep’s milk, and I have fond memories of scouring the stores of Moscow for it in the hungry days of the collapse of Communism.

Kefir cartonUrbanization and industrialization did cause many problems in terms of maintaining a supply of healthy milk. It’s doubtful that we would have traded beer for kumis, even without the advent of Pasteurization, but it’s worth remembering that Ghengis Khan’s warriors drank their kumis.

Oh Bulliet

As I continue my readings on domestication, I admit that I had grossly underestimated its importance before taking this class.  I imagined the studying of domestication would simply involve discussing animals subject to its effect.  I never imagined the investigation of its entire cause and effect.  Now that I have been confronted with this challenge, I must admit that I have become obsessed with all it involves.  I appreciate the difficulty and controversies Bulliet must overcome in order to adequately address this topic.  I have come to learn that domestication is the cause for much of what is today, and there can be no definite definition or origin for something so encompassing.  As Bulliet delves deeper into this topic I find myself questioning the motives for his logic as well as conclusions he makes along the way.
I was really excited for this reading because it felt like Bulliet was actually heading towards a well-grounded conclusion at times.  His conclusion that the sequence of hunter to herder to famer was unlikely, was well received in my mind.  In my previous reading of this book I thought that Bulliet had made it clear that the domestication of flora and fauna were not as linked as some may think.  He cited civilizations that existed on the basis of just flora or just fauna, a view that seemed to contradict both mine and Diamond’s opinion.  Whether I misunderstood Bulliet’s stance on the relationship between the domestication of plants and animals, his conclusion that animal domestication must have followed agriculture improvement restored my confidence in him.  Bulliet continues to gain my respect when he refutes Galton’s claim that all large animals had been tested for domestication by our ancestors.  As cited in the book, domestication is able to be achieved even now in species like foxes and reindeer.  This is where I am glad Bulliet and Diamond have a difference in opinion.  Diamond seemed satisfied with the notion that only a set amount of animals could be domesticate while others could not.  I believe that some species are more ideal to succumb to domestication but I also believe it can be achieved on a larger scope than Diamond cares to admit, a view that I gathered Bulliet shares in too.
Regarding the question of why some animals respond better to the stress of domesticity, Bulliet compares adrenaline in tame and wild species.  This sparked my immediate interest because it presented some of the first scientific evidence behind why some animals are easier to manage than others.  I also believe that these results support my stance that many if not all animals can eventually be domesticated.  Using this science it seems possible to me that humans can target things like lower adrenaline and lower production of certain chemicals in species that seem particularly difficult to domesticate.  It makes sense to me that just because a certain species does not have lowered adrenaline, does not mean that this is not achievable.  Some unseen variable that humans are in charge of must be able to be tweaked to achieve this affect.
As my reading continued I agreed with some other substantial claims that Bulliet made such as the voluntary cohabitation of species and the tameness of some species arising from the lack of predators.  What I disagree with is the lack of credit Bulliet gives to humans regarding domestication.  His canary example meant to illustrate the dumb luck and obliviousness of humans to domestication was ridiculous to me.  He made the point that no other birds were domesticated despite the popularity of canaries.   According to him this lack of attempt shows that we did not have the means or will to accomplish domestication as we wanted it.   My point is why would a business seeking man attempt to domesticate something that is close to a current fad but not the exact thing?  Canaries were what people wanted, so canaries were what people domesticated.
My last qualm comes from what I see as a cop out of Bulliet.  His dismissal of meat, milk and power as a reason for domestication seemed unlikely at first but ultimately had me convinced.  I was disappointed that he believed animal sacrifice was the reason behind undertaking the difficulties of domestication.  It being rooted in religion makes sense because as we travel deeper into human motives and history, religion usually presents a starting point.  I still do not know if I’m completely convinced but I do know that this answer raises more questions than a true answer would.

Creating questions

Why and when and how exactly did domestication happen?

This week’s readings were about creating questions more than they were about answering them. In reality, we do not know how exactly animals came to be domesticated.

In Hunters, Herders, and Hamburgers (for initial discussion of this work, see last week’s post), Bulliet argues that domestication happened as much because of religion, ritual, and sacrifice as because of a need for food. I find this to be highly improbable.The arguments in our first set of readings, describing domestication as a mutualism that developed almost naturally seems liker to me. How could religion and sacrifice take precedence over food procurement? Central to Bulliet’s argument is the suggestion that human males would be reluctant to give up hunting in favor of domesticating animals. I do not think that this is a reasonable supposition. Domestication was as favorable for the species domesticed as it was for

Bulliet’s argument for the use of animals for riding and heavy work is much more probable. I have ridden horses since I was little, and it seems very natural to me that humans would use animals for transport and heavy work. However, I do wonder how the initial riding or plowing training was done. I have broke horses to ride. The first time you get on an individual domestic horse is a little frightening–you don’t know quite how it will react. How frightening must it have been to mount a horse for the first time ever? What circumstances allowed for this to happen?

I do know that it was common practice among cowboys in the 1800s to bring colts in off of the range (2 and 3 year old horses that had rarely been handled), knock them down and castrate them (without any kind of anesthetic) and then get them up and ride them. Though this was traumatic for the young horses, it made the breaking to ride process much easier, because the colts were thinking harder about how much their surgery cuts hurt than they were thinking about how weird it was to have a person riding them. I wonder if a similar process allowed people to ride horses for the first time? Could people have initially gotten on a sick or hurt animal that would have a harder time hurting them?

In general, the arguments presented in Clutton-Brock’s Animals as Domesticates seem much more probable and reasonable to my mind than are Bulliet’s. Clutton-Brock uses a much more even-handed tone than Bulliet does–she is not passing wisdom down from on high, as Bulliet sometimes sounds like he is, but rather is presenting information that she has gathered from a variety of sources. I was interested to learn (after I had finished the reading) that she is in the zoology department at her university–apparently I have a bias towards the writing of those in fields similar to my own.

In particular, Clutton-Brock’s description of humans as nurturers was very compelling and I would like to hear her expand upon it. Humans care for their own young and for the young of other humans. The common saying “it takes a village to raise a child” really expresses this–culturally, we are OK with other people raising our children and with raise children for others. A clear modern-day example of this is human’s tendency to take their children to daycare centers. We aren’t really raising our own children in today’s society.

However, to return to the original point: humans are nurturers and we (today, at least) nurture our animals like we nurture our own young. People refer to their dogs or cats as their “children” and to themselves as their dogs’ “moms” and “dads.” It isn’t too large a jump, then, to imagine that early humans were more likely to want to care for another species than, say, early chimpanzees. Ingold touches on this point also, but in a slightly different sort of way, saying that hunters knew and cared for their prey in much the same way that they knew and cared for their fellow humans. Could humans have domesticated animals because of some sort of nurturing instinct over which we have no control?

Overall, these readings do not explain how domestication happened. Rather, they show that we do not know how it happened, exactly, and we really never will know, because history has happened–we can’t go back and check to see how it happened. Ingold sums up my opinion on the matter very eloquently in the introduction to his essay From Trust to Domination:

“Only humans… construct narratives of this history. Such narratives range from what we might regard as myths of totemic origin to supposedly ‘scientific’ accounts of the origins of domestication. And however we might choose to distinguish between myth and science, if indeed the distinction can be made at all, they have in common that they tell us as much about how the narrators view their own humanity as they do about their attitudes and relations to non-human animals. “

Every story we tell about how domestication happened is just that–a story. We do not know how exactly domestication happened and we never will. We can only theorize. I am beginning to realize that history is a discipline with many more questions than answers. In the study of history, you get a finite amount of evidence from which you must draw conclusions and, depending on who you are, those conclusions can vary widely.

Response on ‘From trust to domination’

I’d like to start by just quoting Tim Ingold’s opening paragraph here, as he offers a very succinct summary of a few points I’d like to tackle throughout this post.

“Just as humans have a history of their relations with animals, so also animals have a history of their relations with humans. Only humans, however, construct narratives of this history. Such narratives range from what we might regard as myths of totemic origin to supposedly ‘scientific’ accounts of the origins of domestication. And however we might choose to distinguish between myth and science, if indeed the distinction can be made at all, they have in common that they tell us as much about how the narrators view their own humanity as they do about their attitudes and relations to non-human animals. In this chapter I aim to show that the story we tell in the West about the human exploita- tion and eventual domestication of animals is part of a more encompassing story about how humans have risen above, and have sought to bring under control, a world of nature that includes their own animality.”

So why exactly do humans create stories about their relationships with animals? Why is our history of animal relations told primarily through stories and not the standard template of facts, records, and concluded trends and themes?

First, we posses exceptional communication abilities; we create languages. Regardless of how sophisticated or close other primate and animal communication systems are, humanity is quite clearly above other species in at least some manner in this category.  As Ingold notes, our ability to tell stories is one of the main qualifiers of this proclaimed superiority. We should note, however, that fictional storytelling is rather unique to more primitive societies, societies that rely more on superstition, myth, and stories than science. And these stories go beyond human-animal relations; such stories are used to explain the world and environment in which the creator lives. With this in mind, stories between human-animal relationships are just another piece of a broader list of phenomena that societies explain without science.

Now certainly there are unique qualities regarding human-animal stories. Firstly, there are a great deal of them, and I suspect they played a particularly important part in primitive societies. A casual example might be the cave paintings of ancient man that seem to place a significant emphasis on animals they came in contact to.

Let’s discuss this section section of Ingold’s essay – “humans have risen above, and have sought to bring under control, a world of nature that includes their own animality. In this story, a special role is created for that category of human beings who have yet to achieve such emancipation from the natural world: known in the past as wild men or savages, they are now more politely designated as hunters and gatherers. I shall be looking at how hunter-gatherers have come to be stereotypically portrayed, in Western anthropo- logical accounts, as surviving exemplars of the ‘natural’ condition of mankind.”

I disagree wholeheartedly that the hunter-gatherer necessarily represents man’s ‘natural’ state. I believe that while man has a kinship with animals and the wilderness, he cannot survive in the same ‘natural’ state that other animals seem to be comfortable with. Perhaps this is because we have no adaptions to make us comfortable. Our adaption of intelligence allows us to mold or create our environment, rancher than our environment molding us. We are both belong and do not belong to nature. Before the influences of western society (or any society), humanity has sought to tamper with its environment, to escape its harshness. I suspect this is was the precursor to ‘enlightenment’, to that state of detachment from nature. Together, we might tentatively conclude that man has two competing drives: that to be a part of nature, and that to rise above it. Many a society’s stance on how people should live in regard to their habitat, and the surrounding natural world is a reconciliation between the two. I feel comfortable stating that what we consider to be morality and enlightenment are mutually divisive against natural urges and animal desire (or at least what this animal relationship lens call ‘animal’).

Bulliet, in Hunters, Herders, and Hamburgersalso quotes enlightenment authors as he discusses the western philosophy of humanity being separate and above the rest of the natural world. While he applies the conclusions to the development of two separate lifestyles in post-domestic society, it’s interesting to see this discussion of man’s natural or unnatural place in nature reappear in several different works. This is one of my favorite topics in the subject of domestication, and while I don’t entirely subscribe to Bulliet’s presentation of the enlightenment philosophy of human superiority, I certainly feel there is something to be said for man’s awkward place in nature, rather than calling the hunter-gather his inherent and intended state.


Finding Common Ground

Over the past few weeks it has become very evident to me that to give domestication a singular definition is nearly impossible. Every week we read another anthropologist’s or philosopher’s or historian’s account of the history of human-animal relations and each one is distinctly unique from the others. Week after week I find in each new perspective, a series of compelling ideas different from the previous week, which in turn sways my opinions and ideas on the matter. I always end up feeling like at the end of our discussions I am close to finding the answer to and ending the debate on human-animal relations once and for all; but then I pick up the reading for the next week and I am back to square one again. It creates a combination of frustration and intrigue in me. It is frustrating how something that seems so simple at first glance can have so much controversy surrounding it, but then in the same vein, all of these different ideas are new and intriguing and force me to pick up the reading for the next week to try to learn more!

To tie this little rant to our readings for the week, I will discuss Ingold’s article From Trust to Dominion. I think that of all the articles we have read, I agree, or rather sympathize most with Ingold’s. And it is not because I think his ideas are the most accurate that we have read, or because he has the best evidence for his arguments; it is simply because he takes the ideas of so many other people and ties them together into one central idea. This is not to say that the other pieces we have read didn’t incorporate others’ ideas into their works because they did. I just think that Ingold pulls ideas from such a diverse variety of people on either end of the spectrum and sows them together into one simple, coherent point better than the other works we have read, or watched, thus far.

I think he understands that there are so many different views on human-animal relations, that to try to create an all-encompassing opinion on the matter is futile. Instead, he looked into a series of other studies and notions and drew out a common theme that was hidden in all of them, whether their authors knew it or not. This hit home with me because I realized that I have been going about this course the wrong way. I have been taking each separate article as its own entity to a large extent, when what I really should be doing to understand human-animal relations is to look for the common ground between each piece. Only through comparisons and contrasts of the many feelings out there on the subject can we hope to get any closer to answering the great questions of human-animal relations.

I may be way off in my views here, and if so feel free to correct me. It just felt different reading Ingold’s article to me and this was my shot at trying to explain that feeling. But anyways Ingold’s article was only a small piece of what we read this week and I feel like I should at least touch on Animals as Domesticates and Hunters, Herders, and Hamburgers.

In Animals as Domesticates, I really liked the timeline that they provided throughout. It was helpful to see a logical time frame presenting when each animal was domesticated in relation to when others were and also in terms of what the climate of the earth was like when things were occurring. Also I thought Clutton-Brock’s discussion on why wolves were the first domesticated animal made a lot of sense. They are very similar to us in many aspects such as the hierarchical structure of the packs and the acceptance of dominance as well as in their ability to survive in a diversity of habitats. These facts combined with their ability to work together with humans for mutually beneficial hunts make a very strong case for why dogs are likely the first truly domesticated species. In addition, I think it is crazy how much information they can come up with from carbon dating techniques and bone analysis. I have always known that you can learn a lot about the past using these techniques but when they were able to show that a bear was domesticated based on a marking caused by a rope in its jaw, I was very impressed. Maybe after a few more centuries of findings like this we will be able to piece together a much more accurate timeline of human-animal history.

Finally I just have a quick point about Hunters, Herders, and Hamburgers. I hoped to get to this topic last Tuesday in discussion but there was just so much to talk about that there was no way to get to everything.  In watching the video about Guns, Germs and Steel, as well as through some of the other readings we have done, we have gained a pretty good idea of Diamonds ideas on the advent of domestication. In summary, he seemed to think that the process of the domestication of plants and animals happened together and as a result of one another. He had his theory that animals were domesticated shortly after the advent of agriculture for food at first but then quickly became used for everything from clothing to plowing the fields as beasts of burden. This contradicts rather strongly with Bulliet’s arguments in Hunters, Herders, and Hamburgers. Bulliet suggests throughout his book, at least up to where I am at, that animals and plants were domesticated separately. His evidence includes how animals such as the dog were domesticated long before agriculture, as well as that animals such as horses and donkeys, which Diamond would argue were domesticated for work such as plowing fields, were not domesticated until thousands of years after the advent of agriculture. I thought both points had valid arguments; however, both ideas cannot be entirely correct. Who do you guys think is closest to the truth, or are they both right in some aspects and wrong in others? Just some food for thought!

Questions to frame our discussion this week

First of all, this post is disjointed and it’s by design—because I’m the discussion leader this week, I tried to phrase as much as I possibly could in the form of a question. What I couldn’t implement into a question I tacked onto the beginning.


I found Bulliet’s ideas about predation and its role in domesticity very interesting, but not particularly revolutionary. What I did enjoy were his references to benefits of domestication; namely going back to our Endangered Species conversation in which there are nonmaterial benefits to be had for domesticating a species.

One thing that did bother me (But not enough to write 1000 words about) was the way Bulliet handled ancient peoples. I think it’s very easy to peer into the looking glass and see ancient civilizations as overly simplistic, even though there are quite a few fields that they knew more about than the average person living today like, for instance, astrology and astronomy. In other words, I feel as though Bulliet discounts how much they really about the world they lived in. He contests that it’s impossible for an ancient civilization to see the immediate benefits in milking cows. Maybe it’s true that they had no idea how nutritious milk is—but is it also fair to say that they were incapable of milking cattle or seeing the use in it? I will come back to this shortly.

With my miscellaneous musings aside, here are some questions to frame our discussion on Tuesday. I seriously doubt that we’ll get to everything—I write down all of the questions that I ask myself during the readings. I’ll pick the ones I think are most important and pose them to you when we meet, but in the meantime feel free to approach any of them for comments.


  1. Was domestication accidental or intentional? Is there such a thing as a universal process of domestication, or are there many paths that lead to the same place? Is the intent behind domestication even something we can theorize about without being inside the heads of our ancestors? To that end, is intent as important, more important, or less important than the end result?
  2. In the first part of our HHH reading, Bulliet clashes with Jared Diamond in regards to whether or not species who have yet to be domesticated can, in fact, be domesticated. Diamond argues that a lack of economic motive prevents these species, such as Bison and Moose (Mooses? Meese?), from being widely domesticated. He also goes on to say that these undomesticated species have inherent qualities that prevent them from being susceptible to the process. How much truth is there to Diamond’s claims? Bulliet counters by citing several hypotheticals and studies. Did he convince you that Diamond is wrong?
  3. Mostly a fun question, but Bulliet has some interesting ideas about the role of predation in perceived docility. For him, animals that live in a predator-free environment become less excitable over time, and this can give the impression that such animals are tame. Do you think that the squirrels on Virginia Tech’s campus fall into this category?
  4. Though Bulliet only mentions it in passing, I thought it was interesting enough to pose again here; Are humans a domesticated species? Personally, I have no idea but I think it’d be fun to talk about.
  5. Bulliet spends a long time talking about primary and secondary motives for domestication. What do you think about that? What possible reason could early peoples have had for taking care of animals that they could not milk or shear for wool, even though today that is their established “purpose”?

My personal opinion is that Bulliet over-thinks the issue and in doing so underestimates both the ability of ancient peoples to find uses for animals and the temperament of the animals in question—I don’t think it would have taken as long as Bulliet suggests for an animal to become comfortable enough around humans to let them shear or milk it, especially if the animal were raised by humans from birth. That doesn’t even necessitate domestication, only taming. And surely even ancient peoples could have realized the benefits of, for instance, shearing sheep for their wool. Is that really as big of a logical leap as Bulliet seems to think.


6. After a brief overview of other people’s posts, I noticed an interest in the part of the reading about sacrifices. Though that chapter did not pique my interest as much as it did the interests of others, I think it’s worth discussing. What is the relationship between domestication and animal/human sacrifices?

7. We got into this a little bit last week with the idea of stewardship, but it was raised again in the Ingold article. Do humans and animals exist in different worlds? He discusses humans and nature as almost a master-slave relationship, in which humans dominate nature. Is this quality, as Ingold seems to imply through his references of Darwin’s time in the Tierra Del Fuego, acquired by us over time or is it somehow inherent?

8. What do you think about Ingold’s idea that the relationship between one of hunter and prey is one of trust? The first time I read it, it struck me as a little too romantic and while I think that a lot can be said regarding the idea that our relationship with animals today is one of domination (Look at the meat industry), I’m just not convinced that there is all that much to the “Trust” side of his essay. Though he describes it as a relationship between hunter and prey, it seems more to me like he’s describing a unilateral relationship between people and nature.



I hope my questions were on the mark more often than not. There’s so much material for this week so it’s a little daunting to frame by oneself.


Until Tuesday,



Hunter-Gather Relationships, Domination and Humans, The Mayan Apocalypse 2012, and Milk

Hunter-Gather Relationships

It was quite the realization to understand that hunter-gathers model their relationships with their environment on the institution of sharing, also the basis of interpersonal relationships in the community. Likewise they value trust, “to trust someone is to act with that person in mind, in the hope and expectation that she will do likewise – responding in ways favorable to you. That favorable response is what you depend on and it comes entirely on the initiative or violation of the other party.”

It was earlier this week that I digested this facebook post from Que Lo Que, a Non Goveremental Organization with mission is to, “To reduce ethnocentrism and cultural misconceptions in the United States by building relationships and communication networks that tell the true story of those living in the developing world.”

It stands to reason that reducing ethnocentrism, or our cultural bias, can come from increased awareness about the way things could be by learning lessons of practicing ideas of trust and confidence inherent in communities who do depend on one another for food and everyday services. However it is becoming clearer that our ethnocentrism comes not from a lack of understanding of trust but from our relationships with animals and the environment based on domination.

Domination and humans separate from nature

I would like to first consider a book I’ve read recently, Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. For millions of years, Homo Sapiens and our predecessors lived sustainably as a part of earth’s ecosystem; it has only been for a few thousand years, since the agricultural revolution, that we have continuously overstepped our means and entered into a war of sorts with earth. Our culture of “takers” (as named by Quinn) assumes that we have dominion over earth and its life and resources. This viewpoint of dominion places us into a community of rulers who must extend control over the earth, but simultaneously takes us out of the community we previously belonged to – the one that everything belongs to. We have tried to escape from the community of earth and rule over it without being a part of it and this could be considered impossible. Fundamentally, I think for us to connect community, sustainability, and environment, we must come to identify ourselves as equal players in the game, and therefore subject to the same rules of the game as all other life on earth.

The Mayan Apocalypse 2012

The 2012 Story asks the question, “What happens to a culture that forgets the center, denies the transcendent perennial wisdom, and becomes married to an ant traditional philosophy in which ego, consumer materialism, and self-interest run the show? What happens is the fulfillment of the Maya prophesy for 2012.”

In short, the Maya (and just go with me here) seem to have understood the nature of cycles, integrating celestial cycles with culture and conscious here on earth. They understood how and why 2012 would signal a time of great change. The teaching for the end of the long-count calendar cycle (the one that recently ended) spoke of individual spiritual transformation beginning from within, springing with the free-will choice to set aside personal ego to be connected to a higher purpose. The main idea was somewhat illustrated in that, “The most fully actualized potential of each human being is to realize that the limited ego is a temporary extension of the external, divine self.” What should naturally follow, the book argues, is the organization of life and human culture around this truth, with decisions and goals being made in deference to this whole-consciousness perspective.

There is much to discuss and consider in regard to our value and responsibility for the commons of the world and the social inequities of today.  For now, I’ll keep it brief. The “ideal” we are searching for can be met not in material objects or deprivation of animals and others.

Can it be up to us to choose how to define our identity so that we are satisfied personally?


According to Chapter six in Fresh: A perishable history Freidberg explains that humans have relied on other animals’ milk for food since at least 5,000 BC. In regions too cold or arid for agriculture, like the Sahara and parts of central Asia, milk was the food of nomadic peoples, providing far more sustenance than meat. Across Eurasia, milk-bearing animals ranked among peasants, “treasured possessions, turning otherwise useless forage into much-needed fat and protein.” Freidberg paints a picture of dairy peoples across the pre-industrial world showing their appreciation for milk in their creation myths, in their literature and art, and in their protection of the animals themselves.

Although Fresh is discussing a time period much after the initial period of domestication it provides insight to two fundamental questions / problems I have with Bulliet’s assertions. First, just because the domestication of animals was arguably an intentional human process that took long periods of time does not necessitate that this condition of valuing and using milk animals is inherently unnatural. Friedburg explains its importance to peoples of the past. The Trust to domination reading further brings to light that there might be something different about milk-producing animals if dairy peoples truly treasured their animals like Freidberg suggests. This idea is expressed in hunter-gathers relationships to their environment in that, “people have to look over and care for the country in which they live… This means treating the country and the animals that dwell in it with due consideration and respect.”

The term domestication implies domination and force to control another. I think it would be a narrow and misinformed view however to assert the subsidence provided to people by animal milk came secondary to its religious and artful purposes. It is rational to believe  that milk was valued for its nutritional value first (because let’s be serious, there was probably not much food variety on the dinner spread of early humans) and was so important that religious and cultural practices centered around it.

I would like to lastly address the misplaced statement about bacteria in milk during the industrial revolution as evidence for early humans not drinking milk. The industrial revolution began an era (come-on Bulliet, use your categories!) of food standardization and global distribution. Despite improvements in sanitation, water supplies, and health care babies stood much less chance of surviving in cities than in rural areas. It is also true that cow milk ranked among the primary possible culprit. The question is WHY are these deaths happening? A 1903 NYC study confirmed the view that dysentery-related deaths escalated in the summer, when milk was not properly chilled either in transit or at home. The problem was not the milk. The problem was the increasing distance between the cow and the consumer that made the bacteria count in the milk skyrocket in warm weather but it also passed through more environments and hands thereby increasing its opportunity for contamination. What’s more, wrote Rosenau in The Milk Question, “It is human nature to concern ourselves more about things we make for our friends and neighbors, whom we know, and see frequently, than it is for some far off foreigner.”

I have jumped the categorical lines of time but only to illustrate Bulliet’s claims and evidence for dismissing adult human consumption of animal milk, the idea infants drank milk (more unlikely than adults, honestly) , and for being unnatural to the human experience were perhaps not based in true understanding or full consideration.

Ingold hit the nail on the head with the idea, “Nature has to be thought of as separate from man before any questions of intervention or command and the method and ethics of either can arise. The more separation man is from animals and nature the more nature becomes viewed as raw materials to human construction projects. These projects are what establish the division between the natural and the artificial, the pristine and the manmade, nature-in-the-raw, and nature transformed.” It is then logical to understand early human relationships with milk-producing animals from as more natural than artificially created. Human’s relationship with early milk animals perhaps could have manifested from peaceful coevolution rather than strict human domination.

“Taming” Animals, or Dominating Them?

Are humans above nature?

Bulliet begins the second part of his book by talking about the taming of wild animals as part of the domestication process. This entire chapter dealt with keeping the captured/breeding population seperate from the wild and feral animals of the wilderness. He begins with his rats and foxes example, where after decades of testing and “natural selection” -I say that sarcastically, as the testing and breeding of certain selected rats was very unnatural in itself- led to the creation of the “white lab rat” as people attempted to breed the albinos together, and successfully had. He also talks about how through so many generations of breeding and being held in captivity, this tameness gene kept elevating and more and more with each offspring. However, the experimenter was actually selecting the tamest of all the offspring, and thus practically determined the future generations of the captive foxes.

So, to what extent is the domestication of animals deemed useful? Bulliet would argue that people think “domestic animal means ‘useful animal.’” He separates usage of animals into primary & secondary uses: primary being meat , and secondary meaning the extras involved in the domestication of the animal. These could range anywhere from wool from sheep, to riding of horses and camels, to even the plowing of fields. The primary use, however is always meat, as it is a driving force for humans to hunt, herd, and “hamburgize,”(see what I did there?) for their own survival.

Now the question at hand is, when did the sacrificing of animals come about? There has always been a huge request for animal sacrifice throughout all religions and all races of the world. A more personal example, when attending a family gathering dinner, my cousin’s chickens were raised and killed for the meal, and they told me before the killing of the chickens, they would say a prayer to thank God for the wonderful creatures that he put on his earth. Now, I’m not very religious, but that right there almost sounds like sacrifice itself! Bulliet would go on to say that domestication could have been for the purpose of sacrifice, because in case of a sacrificial event, there would ALWAYS be an animal on hand. Versus hoping the hunter of the group found game, they could always rely on the domesticates.

I’ve described three scenarios here, in which it seems like humans have distinguished themselves above nature: taming and selective breeding by humans, claiming animals as being useful for humans, and claiming animals lives in human sacrificial usage. Are we starting to exploit the benefits of domesticated animals? Are we dominating their lives in an unfair manor? Ingold would argue that, saying that humans, “have risen above, and have sought to bring under control, a world of nature that includes their own animality.” To what reason do we assume the right to slaughter animals for our own religious pleasing? Who deemed animal meat as a primary use for humans? Why do we, as humans, think we can genetically change a species to suit our quest for knowledge?

I am starting to increasingly understand the world through a vegetarian’s eyes.

The Idea of Progress

Reading Ingold’s article about trust and domination made me think about an issue that has come up in many of my classes and in conversations with people outside of class.  This happened during our first discussion as well.  The issue is a problematic idea of what progress is and what it means and implies.  I apologize in advance if this doesn’t make much sense, but I’ll do my best.

Progress is a term that has many ideas wrapped up in it that don’t seem incredibly obvious at first glance.  Progress implies a movement toward in a direction that is better than the current state of things.  The better that is implicit in this turns the idea of progress into a value judgement.  Progress is a good thing because it leads to something better.

The problem with this idea is that the way that we, being us in the class, define better is very subjective and based on our own cultural experiences.  Our idea of better is not the same as another culture’s idea of better.  Therefore, our ideas about progress can not be applied to other cultures because of the disconnect between idea’s of what is good.  When we lose sight of this disconnect, we try to superimpose our idea’s of progress on other culture’s and end up being judgmental in an unfair way.

Ingold mentions this in the first part of his article.  Darwin talked about the hunter-gatherers he encountered on his voyage around the world and compared them to the culture he knew and deemed them backwards and without many redeeming qualities.  The rest of Ingold’s article discusses why this is an unfair judgement.  Hunter-gatherers were and are not any worse than other cultures because they lack technology, they simply live differently.  Judging their progress as a culture or civilization based on the Western standard of how much can they produce is unfair because, as Ingold describes, production as we see it is irrelevant to the hunter-gatherers.  Their conception of nature as something to be trusted to provide as opposed to something to be dominated is so different from what Darwin knew as good, that his judgements ultimately do not mean anything.

Unfortunately, unfair judgements like Darwin’s are not limited to 19th century naturalists.  It seems that many people in the present day do the same thing to Native Americans.  In my experience, many people think Native Americans were backward because they did not have the technology that colonists had.  The colonists helped Native Americans progress by introducing their technology to North America.  They helped the Native Americans progress beyond their unsophisticated hunter-gatherer ways.  This narrative is unfair because it imposes a Western cultural standard on the Native Americans.  It is also unfair because Native Americans lived much better than early colonists.

I don’t think that people do this purposefully.  I think it is mostly that people don’t think about the implications of the word “progress.”  By more closely examining what we say in class, I think we can better analyze the arguments that we read.  Again, I apologize if this seems like a rant.