Animal Studies Bibliography

Bryant, Clifton D. and William E. Snizek. 1993. On the trail of the centaur. Society 30(3): 25-36.

Animals have had a central impact on human life since prehistoric times, whether it be as sources of food, other beings whose behavior humans had to adapt to to survive, or later, as domesticated companions. In modern times we debate the proper use of animals, have numerous animal-related recreations, and celebrate animals through pet cemeteries and animal celebrities. Social historians and anthropologists have offered some interesting studies of human interaction with animals, although it has usually been the interaction of a Western people with one species, and both of these focuses need to be expanded In further research. Among the sociologists who rose to Bryant's call to study the zoological connection, much good work has been done, but more focus should go to the effect that non-companion animals (e.g. insects, birds, fish) have on our lives. In particular, we need to investigate the subtle effects animals have on our values and institutions. The anthropomorphised images of animals seen in Disney cartoons may have contributed to a general softening (The “Bambi syndrome”) of American attitudes, ranging from disapproval of hunting and trapping to anti-war beliefs and lighter sentences for criminals. Human culture also affects animals--for example, changes in eating patterns, health concerns, and business practices have led to farmers to breed smaller cattle and to stop using the larger breeds of chicken. The breeding of pets is also shaped by humans life, as urbanization led to increased demand for smaller dogs, and then aggressive dogs with the increases in crime, followed now by a desire for exotic and purebred animals. Animal symbolism appears in every fact of human life (e.g. politicians posing with dogs not cats, animal recreations, animal images in language and on clothing--bunny slippers, etc.) and must be decoded. The presence of so many pet animals in society and that fact that some people may grow up in close contact with animals while some may never have contact with an animal suggests the need for study of animals' effect on socialization, personality development, deviance, learning, human relationships, etc. An interesting way to study this question would be to compare a pet-owning country to one that has virtually no pets, like Iceland. Anthropomorphism and its effects must also be studied, since the practice may have positive effects but may also create “social dysfunctions.” There is a huge amount of work to be done on the various animal-related recreations, which include millions of people visiting zoos, hunting, fishing, birdwatching, etc. These activities should be studied as they occur in group or single-person settings. Human-animal work interactions and relationships with both active (cowboy and horse, shepherd and dog, organ grinder and monkey) and passive (miner and canary, scientist and lab rat) animal participants are present throughout history and provide an interesting place to study anthropomorphism, social identity, and loneliness. Studies of animal-related jobs (poultry plant workers, vets, etc.) have tended to focus on other aspects of the jobs, not thinking specifically about the interaction with the animals and its meaning. Possession of an animal, and what type of animal it is, is indicative of location social status, since animals take money to maintain. Which animal-related pursuits a person engages in (e.g. hunting with the hounds or polo vs. pole fishing) is also suggestive of social class, as is the amount of direct contact and emotional connection owners have with their animals (with the rich often having trainers and handlers). Animals (dogs used to attack and to sniff out the enemy, elephants and horses for transportation and fighting upon, dolphins as guards, pigeons as messengers, etc.) have always been used in the military. Research should assess how these bonds differ from civilian human-animal bonds, whether animals increase or decrease soldiers' stress, how animals affect soldiers' motivation, and the effect of animal use on the enemy's perceptions. Animals can also create social problems (e.g. too many pigeon droppings; mussels clogging waterways; insects harming crops, humans, or buildings; overbreeding driving wild animals into residential areas where they cause damage and harm pets and kids; pet droppings causing public health risks; dog bites). The huge amount of money and effort spent on pet animals is money that isn't going to the poor. An interesting research question would be who believes animals are a social problem and who doesn't, what agendas might be behind each position, and what effect each position might have on human and animal life. Crime and deviance relating to animals is also a huge and untouched field of study. Prehistorically, norms mandated particular ways and times of hunting, respecting others' kills and hunting areas, and proper distribution of meat. Now we have complicated laws regarding hunting, slaughter, pet ownership, and many other animal-related contexts. These rules fall into five categories: animals as personal property, animals as public property, animals as hazards or nuisances, cruelty to animals, and crimes against ecology. Of particular interest might be studies of why people choose to keep dangerous or offensive animals or excessive numbers of companion animals. Cruelty to animals has been studied in fairly individualized contexts but has not at a societal level, which would include changing perceptions of cruelty and public reactions. The meaning of cruelty to the individual who does it should also be investigated. Animal crime is especially interesting because not everyone agrees on who is or isn't violating the rules. While there has been much study of animals in classical art and literature, work needs to be done on animals in popular culture. What does or great use of animals in popular culture mean? What will be the effect of our anthropomorphism? Animal issues are also central to politics, whether it's struggles between Native Americans and white soldiers or current arguments over protecting endangered species and how that impacts business and development. Most obviously, the animal rights movement has had important effects on social and economic life, from changing regulations for breeders to encountering personal danger when wearing a fur coat. The current studies of human-animal relations are widely scattered and need synthesis and interpretation. Studies must move beyond the exploratory stage and become more rigorous and deep, as well as moving to cross-cultural analysis.



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