• Rats: Another animal taking the blame

    Posted on April 27th, 2014 mollyo92 2 comments

    I was most interested in the portion of Burt which discussed the parallel universe of rats and humans. It seems to me that this concept fits well into many themes common to domestication, which is that humans don’t wish to acknowledge a portion of themselves, and instead portray that portion onto an animal. As humans create massive, complex and complicated cities, rats serve as the ‘disgusting’ side effect of that construction. What we don’t see, or at least want to think about when we build a massive city, is the pollution and destruction that is left in the wake. Rats are the living reminder that underneath the world we have created for ourselves, there remains a wild influence we cannot control. As described by the readings, humans ultimately always have the intention of killing rats, whether for the purpose of exterminating an unsightly addition to our ‘pristine’ cities, or for scientific exploration. What strikes me as interesting is that rats are such a strong symbol of dirt and filth in our cities. Why are rats blamed for the pollution and garbage that humans have created? Rats do indeed symbolize this filth, however it’s humans who have created their environment. Why do the rats stand for trash that is our own fault? It’s because the rats are able to take blame for something we don’t want to accept blame for. Why should we accept the consequences of the mess we’ve created when we can instead say, oh that disgusting rat. It’s so filthy. Not, oh those disgusting humans. They’ve created such filth. Although I was interested in Shapiro’s discussion of the social construction of the laboratory animal, I do find the context of the rat in our society more interesting. I liked that Burt described a history of the rat and it’s place in society, describing the way it has arrived in its current role. I was intrigued of Burt’s adoration for the rat, and that his blame for the opinion of the rat lies mostly in it’s proximity to humanity. As with other animals that have experienced domestication, the rat has been molded into an undeserved role by humans.

  • Viewing domestication with a biased lens

    Posted on April 20th, 2014 mollyo92 3 comments

    I’ll have to admit that it’s difficult for me to read Darwin. I’m not much of a scientific mind, and especially this early, somewhat crude science is hard for me to follow, given that he tends to use vocabulary and discuss topics that I’m not at all familiar with. However, I was able to follow Brantz, and I was very interested by her work. I was grabbed from the start by the opening statement, a quote by Darwin: “From a remote period, in all parts of the world, man has subjected many plants and animals to domestication and culture…He unintentionally exposes his animals and plants to to various conditions of life, and variability supervenes, which he cannot even prevent or check.” This quote is so interesting to me as it completely portrays the subject of animals and plant/human relationships from what I see as a bias anthropocentric viewpoint. The story is of human history, but also of man allowing animals and plants to enter into their society, a society which is totally separate from what appears to be the rest of the natural world. This separation does not sit well with me, and I think it’s part of the reason humans have become so removed from animals and nature in modern times. As explained in the article, animals were used as status symbols for humans; they were always seen as something man could manipulate. Even the fact that organizations were created for the protection of pets before the protection of wild animals makes it clear that human actions have long revolved around selfishness rather than a concern for other living creatures. Additionally, the fact that stray animals are seen as a nuisance because they don’t have their place serving the needs of a human family just goes to show what a bias view humans have always maintained towards plants and animals. How can they serve me? What rights should they have? Should they have any rights at all? All these common discussions on animal topics make it clear that the whole subject of domestication is just bound to take place with humans squarely in the center. I’m not really convinced domestication ever happened as a mutually beneficial arrangement. I believe there was a point in history when humans began to see themselves as better than all other species, and since that point our outlook on the other living creatures in the world has been that they are all a step below us. I think what is needed is a change in mindset. Before humans can have a discussion about the place that animals should have in ‘our’ world, we must first understand that it is their world too.

  • Discussion for Reindeer People

    Posted on April 1st, 2014 mollyo92 No comments

    I’ve listed a few topics that I’ve picked out of the blogs this week for the discussion of Reindeer People
    -Conflicting beliefs about Bayanay, specifically on the topic of hunting
    -Given that reindeer are such a good candidate for domestication, why did reindeer domestication happen in Russia and not elsewhere?
    -The effect of Soviet communism on the relationship between domesticated reindeer and the Eveny people
    -Treatment of animals in a capital vs Soviet communist society
    -Commodification of animals: how did the relationship change between humans and reindeer as the animals changed from partners to commodities?
    -Division between domesticated and wild reindeer: change of genes? What accounts for the differences?
    -Relationship of animal treatment in correlation with religion in pastoral and nomadic societies
    -How we treat our pets vs animals that are domesticated for food
    -Domesticated people: can humans be domesticated in the same way that animals can? Did this happen to the reindeer people?
    -Dream interpretation