Animal Studies Bibliography

Bryant, Clifton D. 1979. The Zoological Connection: Animal-Related Human Behavior. Social Forces 58(2): 399-421.

Sociologists have generally ignored animals as a subject of inquiry, but in fact, animals are highly involved in human social relations and therefore should be studied. We can see the involvement of animals in human society in the saturation of our language with animal terms and metaphors (suggesting a “cultural preoccupation” with animals akin to, e.g., Eskimos' multiple terms for snow) to describe our physical appearances, behavior, and feelings. We describe much of our material culture using animal terms and themes as well, including clothing, toys, foods, machinery, children's and adults' literature, film, theater, and television, music, leisure activities, sports teams, and holidays. Much social behavior involves animals, as well, including human relationships bonded or broken through an animal or animal activity, the health benefits of companion animals, the daily routine organized around care for pets, efforts to eliminate bothersome animals, eating meat, wearing animal products like fur and leather, etc. Bryant offers five pages of examples of these influences, and even that much only hits the tip of the iceberg. Clearly, then, ignoring animals in sociological research will cause us to miss much important information about social life. There are 5 major areas in which inquiry would be most profitable. First, animals are social problems in several ways. They attack people and crops; their populations are too small (therefore requiring special protections which may inhibit human development) or too large; as pets, they consume large amounts of food and energy that could be offered to hungry people; they soil parks and streets. Second, the animal liberation movement posits that animals are sentient creatures who should be spared abuse and given rights. This movement has had significant impacts on various industries, including whaling and animal research. The actions of the movement activists are interesting subjects as a social movement and for the disequilibrium they may cause in society, by, for example, changing recreational activities, causing industry changes that raise food prices, or hurting biomedical research by stemming the supply of imported animal subjects. Views about animal use are of further interest because they are so contradictory (e.g. the difference between chasing a killing a cat or a fox--the former results in prison, the latter in a hunting trophy). Third, animals are involved in human work in two ways. Animals have always been used to help with human work, often in dyads of social significance to the human (e.g. the cowboy and his horse), sometimes to such an extent that animals have replaced humans in doing certain tasks. Further, large numbers of people work in animal-related industries, and how they and society understand this work is an important area to research. Fourth, animals often serve as surrogate humans, filling in social holes. For example, animals serve as companions to lonely people (e.g. widows, miners), as surrogate children, as socializing agents and friends for children, and as therapists. If trends in the divorce rate, childless marriages, and the like continue, the importance of animals as surrogate humans will likely become even more important. Fifth, much crime and delinquency involves animals in various ways: “animals can be the perpetrators of crime, the instigators of crime,... the victims of crime...the object of crime, the motivation for crime, the instrument of or for crime,...the mechanism for the punishment of crime” (412). As private property, animals can be stolen, assaulted, or killed; as public property (wildlife), they can be illegally hunted; dangerous animals (e.g. poisonous snakes) or too many animals may violate ordinances; treatment of animals (including beastiality) may violate animal cruelty laws; and rare animals may be smuggled and sold on the black market. Proliferating laws suggest that zoological crime is a major issue.



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