• Rats: Another animal taking the blame

    Posted on April 27th, 2014 mollyo92 No 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.


    2 responses to “Rats: Another animal taking the blame” RSS icon

    • You perfectly summed up the main point of his article, and in a lot fewer words. I was trying to come up with another animal that takes the blame for human destruction, and the best I came up with are deer. People often complain of deer venturing into their lawn and feeding off their flowers, or getting angry they have to slam on the breaks to stop for one sprinting across the road. However, we should not see these majestic animals as a nuisance, but rather, as a reflection of the fact that we have expanded our suburbs well beyond their carrying capacity and into wild forests.

      Furthermore, we should see other “nuisances” like squirrels as a symbol of human preservation of surrounding trees. Squirrels need trees to live in, and if their is an abundance of squirrels scurrying happily outside, then we at least have kept enough trees to support the population. This is clearly a much simpler piece of the equation, but my point is that humans should use the populations of animals around us as an evaluation for our mark on the surrounding environment.

    • I’m not sure we blame rats for the filth created by our growth. I’d be inclined to think most people know we are responsible for the problems created by our cities. But, rats are an excellent symbol for this reality and “save” us from attributing these qualities to ourselves.

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