Animal Culture

I thought Animals as Domesticates was more of a scientific approach to discussing the history of domestication of animals then found in Bulliet’s excerpts. I thought he reinforced his theories by breaking down scientifically the process involved. Not being much of a science person, some of the explanations went a little over my head but overall I thought it was pretty easy to follow. I also appreciated the reference to Guns, Germs, and Steel now that we are knowledgeable on Diamond’s theory as well. Out of the entire excerpt what struck me the most was the idea of animals having their own, “culture.” This is an idea I have always only associated with humans. While this was not the point of his reference to animal’s cultures the very idea got me thinking about how different cultures raise and treat animals, specifically pets. I spent last summer in Barcelona where I noticed how pretty much no dog owner had a leash on their dog at any time. The majority of dog owners would walk around with their dog obediently following them. The dog would stay right beside the owner and wouldn’t stray even with all the distractions the big city had to offer. The dogs also listened to commands and would wait for their owners to return without needing to be tied up. For example, one woman was walking with her dog beside her until she got to a store. She continued to walk into the store but the dog knew to stop, sit, and wait outside the store until she finished.  The second the woman finished shopping and exited the store the dog was right there waiting where she left him and began walking beside her once again. The idea of animal cultures is interesting but I am also curious to find out how different cultures affect animals and pets. Does the way in which the dog was allowed to walk off leash with her owner make her more of an equal to a human? Is the use of a leash a failure in training the dog? Or is not needing a leash at all show that human is truly superior and even though the dog is “free” it is so domesticated that it won’t leave the side of the human?


This reading had a lot of interesting ideas and themes that categorize different roles humans have for animals and how these have changed over time with the development and sprawl of society.  Scientific innovations and progressions have obviously affected animal’s roles as well. The most interesting of these for me is the idea of cloning and bioengineering.  “Cloning, genome analysis and the bioengineering of modified animal’s breeds will generate cascading moral and legal debates about the definitions of “species” the ownership of species and the rights of genes.” This reminded me of the lab-grown burger which is the most recent innovation that has sparked international interest. If we are now able to create meat in a lab will this lessen our dependency on animals? How will the role of cattle and other raised animals for consumption change? Are there problems with lab-grown meat that have yet to be uncovered?

Guns, Germs, and Steel

A common theme, especially within environmental science discourses, is the ever evolving relationship between man and nature. This touches on the terms used in “Energy and Ecosystems” of the division of human history into prehistory and history. With these definitions it implies that man was controlled by nature and has learned gradually over time to now control and manipulate the environment. While I do believe that man has caused countless irreversible acts of destruction to the environment I don’t fully buy into the idea that we can “transcend the environment.” I think that we reach a point where it is impossible to have power over the environment. We have successfully managed to predict weather patterns but we cannot prevent them and that is a limit man will always live with. The destruction brought on by storms, earthquakes, tornadoes and other acts of Mother Nature have forced man to move which is when nature actually ends up controlling man. The video again proves how geography shaped the modern world and designated what we know as the developed and developing worlds today. The resources available, the animals in the area, and the ability of fertile crops completely dictated what humans were able to survive and prosper and eventually lead to the society of the haves and have nots. The more productive the grain available the faster the society developed and gained, “cargo.” For example, this development began in the middle east with the cultivation of barley and wheat. Asia followed not long after with the cultivation of rice; another highly productive and high yield crop. In summary the distribution of resources, which transcends into wealth which transcends into power was fundamentally due to farming and resources first discovered in different areas around the world.

Just another Blogs@VT Sites site