Animal Studies Bibliography

Herzog, Jr., H. and G. Burghardt. 1988. Attitudes toward animals: Origins and diversity. In A. Rowan (Ed.), Animals and People Sharing the World (pp. 75-94). Hanover, NH: University Press of New England.

Animals are central to human life, with animal images appearing in all aspects of social life and our responses to animals including the entire range of emotions, from fear to love to reverence. Our attitudes toward animals are affected by age, education, urbanization, and social class, and the great variation between cultures and across time suggests that cultural influences are important. Despite this cultural variation, however, these attitudes may have a genetic basis linked with natural selection. Support for this argument comes in two categories: 1) evidence of innate responses or the readiness quickly to learn certain things and 2) plausible scenarios indicating that the value-related considerations could have been produced or influenced by natural selection (77). For example, snake and spider phobias are common in both humans and non-human primates probably because the best way to avoid poisonous ones is to avoid them all. Similarly, people who could better domesticate animals for their own purposes would fare better in natural selection, and the current affection spent on pets may be a result of the fact that those who survived were the best at caring for animals, who survive domesticated use best when they receive personal care. Our affection for endangered/rare animals over common ones may reflect a heritage in which the remains of rare animals were central to rituals. The looks and behavior of baby animals induce us to generalize parental feelings onto the animals, feelings that ensure the survival of our offspring. We are biased toward caring for species whose mode of communication is most similar to ours, because we feel we can understand them (e.g. we care more about puppies, who cry, than mice, who exude scents). Similarly, we become more angry about animals' pain and suffering when the animal responds as we would--in other words, when we can identify with the animal. If our attitudes toward animals are based on such biological and evolutionary roots, there are implications for any attempt to change these attitudes. Personal experience with animals also shapes our attitudes. Due to urbanization, few people now have any experience with killing large animals for meat, a change which surely affects our attitudes toward meat-eating and other uses of animals. There are significant individual differences in attitudes toward animals (for example, people who keep snakes as beloved pets instead of a dog or cat) as well as cultural differences regarding proper attitudes toward and treatment of different animals. In addition, there are subcultural differences, like cockfighters in Appalachia who engage in and love a sport that most Americans disapprove of. Cockfighters have a utilitarian attitude toward animals, as do other groups like hunters and animal researchers, and justify cockfighting based on these morals. Most of the cockers find other bloodsports, like dogfighting, repugnant. Cockfighting is an accepted part of the subculture in many areas, and participants therefore display proudly their participation in the sport. Attitudes toward animals also vary within the dominant culture. Studying portrayals of animals in popular culture reveals some of these attitudes. For example, an examination of dogs in tabloids shows their various roles in human culture--companion, loyal best friend and savior, betrayer/attacker, victim of human abuse. Dogs are also often anthropomorphised, attributed supernatural powers or experiences, and portrayed in comics as smarter than humans. The archetypes found in popular culture's treatment of animals reflects our conflicted feelings toward animals and the contradictory roles they play in human life. Finally, phenomenology, the study of consciousness and subjective experience, is an important way to study our attitudes toward animals.



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