Animal Studies Bibliography

Rowan, Andrew N. 1988. Introduction: The power of the animal symbol and its implications. In Andrew N. Rowan (Ed.), Animals and People Sharing the World (pp. 1-12). Hanover: University Press of New England.

Critics often argue that attention to animal welfare is wrong in the face of so many human problems. It is clear, however, that animal welfare, human welfare, and the planet's welfare are all connected and that advancing one means advancing them all. Animals' importance to human life is illustrated by Leach's (1964) study of obscene language, which found that obscenities come in three types: dirty' words (about sex or excretion), blasphemy and profanity, and terms by which a human is likened to an animal (2). The prominence of animals in our language of abuse suggests animal symbols' central importance. Humans have dealt with the killing of animals in various ways. Hunter-gatherers held rituals to appease the spirits of animals they killed. Modern society presents an image of acceptance of killing animals, but this may cover a discomfort with these practices, reflected, for example, in the use of the term sacrifice in animal labs and by the outcast status of butchers in some societies. Certain animals have particular importance to humans, such as the wolf, which is capable of inciting mass hysteria (4) regardless of its actual impact on livestock or human life. Debates over apes' language abilities also reflect our discomfort with the place of animals in our world. Rather than objective debate, the research is bitter and partisan, reflecting a fear that this human-animal boundary might be challenged. Further, the debate is a foolish waste of energy considering that we might instead be communicating with the animals and learning about their worldview. The fact that we waste such time is yet more evidence of our discomfort. The place of companion animals is also ambiguous, as reflected by our naming practices. The vast majority of pets are named foreign names, out-of-fashion human names, or pet names, with only a small number given common human names. One interesting facet of pet-keeping practices in America and Europe is the different attitudes toward dogs and cats--in one study, only 4% disliked dogs, but 28% disliked cats. This difference, as well as breed preferences, probably reflect both species personality (cats are much less submissive, for example) and humans' desires for an image to portray (e.g. macho men buying pitbulls). Companion animals are very important in human society in fulfilling some physical intimacy needs in a safe way. One major hole in the literature [note: written 1988] on animals is the connections between animals and children's development. Initial work and theories point to developmental stages in which children attribute human traits to animals, children's willingness to see animals as their equals, and children's phobias of animals. Animals have always been an important part of human life, and this is why we have such strong feelings about them (as evidenced by, for example, the most-letters-to-congress statistic). Feelings toward animals vary over time and culture--for example, though modern Americans love dogs, many other cultures, ancient and modern, hate dogs and make laws to eliminate them. Our anthropomorphization of animals and our religious views both contribute to how we treat animals. The importance of animals and animal symbols should be studied.


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