Erica Fudge's struggle to distinguish the desires and potential happiness of a domestic animal and the desires that humans project onto their pets really struck a chord for me, personally. She claims that we see 'pets' as a whole different type of animal because we project our own expectations and desires onto them as if they were human. But no matter what the relationship is between a human and animal is, there will ALWAYS be that distinction between them. In the documentary 'A Little Vicious,' the dog's owner seems to genuinely care about his dog; there's no doubt about that. But like Erica Fudge discusses, his relationship with his animal is strictly one where is is the domineer. Throughout the entire film, he justifies the reasons for the dog being returned to him as simply, "He's my dog. He belongs to me". No matter how happy and/or content we find a domestic animal, it is hard for some to separate them from being 'property' or something to dominante in their subconscious. Fudge claims that many people don't want a companion-they just want to be the master. I think this was the most difficult aspect of the case of the dog in the film. For the human's ultimate happiness, the dog ought to be returned to him despite the potential consequences that could occur without the trainings and check-ups. For the animal's ultimate happiness, he would remain in a healthier enviornment that does not include his previous owner.
Erica Fudge’s “Animal” and the film “A Little Vicious” reminded me of an article that appeared in New York a couple of weeks ago entitled “The Rise of Dog Identity Politics.” We have discussed the problem of categorization and the human creation of boundaries often so far in this class, and these problems apply particularly to our relationship with domesticated animals. Fudge claims “a pet is a pet first, an animal second” (32). In becoming a pet, a symbiotic relationship is formed. But what is the exact nature of this symbiosis? The New York magazine article argues that the human/dog relationship is being changed yet again in modern urban society, where individuals are more likely to live their lives alone. The dog as pet dilutes the need for a family. The article notes one theory of pet-dog as a parasite because of their “ability to suck up human caregiving that could be going to human children.” Still, pet-dogs reduce stress, and studies have shown they may help people be more empathetic to one another. The relationship becomes more mutualistic. It is very easy to see how dogs may benefit from this relationship. Pure-breeds, especially of smaller dogs, would certainly not survive in the wild. They have, indeed, evolved alongside of and with the aid of humans, to a state in which their continued survival will be ensured by their human breeders. Still, are the dogs really benefiting here? The dog in “A Little Vicious” was simultaneously a pet and a tool of defense. How does our relationship change when the animal becomes a tool? The emotional attachment of the animal as “pet” still exists, but the animal becomes even closer to the human. In “Animal,” a section on seeing-eye dogs featured the testimony of a blind person who could not fully articulate their relationship with their dog, responding “what is your relationship with your eyes? (143).” The dog here becomes “a literal extension of the owner’s self;” a boundary is crossed and a new category born (144).
The article I reference exists here: http://nymag.com/news/features/63232/
The film "A Little Vicious" and Fudge's "Animal" are both concerned with the power structures that relate to humans and animals. In both cases, we see that humans both treat animals like humans, but also like things that are to be controlled. There is a question of whether or not the animals have rights, and Fudge explains, "an animal does not have inalienable rights, for if they did all meat eaters might find themselves behind bars" (63); in the film, the dog, Bandit was arrested and trialed. There is a contracting relationship in which animals have rights and do not have rights at the same time. Fudge states, "we think about all animals as only having the meaning that we give them" (51); the relationship between human and animal is confused. People are uncertain about how to approach or view animals because there are many contrasting beliefs' people give animals many different meanings.
I was really interested in the idea of animal training brought up in Hearne's article, Fudge's book, and the film "A Little Vicious". I confess I have never put much thought into training but have acknowledged that it has become a big part of domestic animals' place in our human-based society. Hearne presented the idea of proper training as a means of creating a environment for the animal. She continued to explain that correct training results in the animal's happiness thru this constructed environment. With the installed views of what the animal can and can not do, it can find happiness in an environment that is not directly created for the animal itself. In a sense, this is how people find happiness as well. By learning what is right and what is wrong, we can select from a range of "healthy" or "beneficial" ways of enjoying the world in which we live. I believe that beings, no matter human or non-humans, react well to boundaries; although this is often debated. It is with boundaries that we can feel safe, secure. Order creates peace, as chaos brings feelings of insecurity. There is often the idea that freedom brings happiness and that setting too many rules is bad; this idea must be overlooked when it comes to training both animals and humans. We saw in both readings and the film that without the proper method of training, order is loss and the trainee is robbed of both happiness and rights.
Frankly, as I was reading Fudge's book I found it to be all over the place in terms of its examples and references. Yet when I finished the book, I realized that this is a reflection of the multitude of ways in which our society uses (and abuses, adores, despises, fears, etc.) animals. The numerous paradoxes that she uncovers only serve to complicate her subject matter, which is why the book touches upon so many topics in the world of human-animal relations - and by the end, we certainly see this variety. Fudge also returns again and again to the idea that many, if not all, human-animal interactions serve the human more than they do the animal - whether in material terms, such as with meat eating and leather wearing, or more abstractly, such as with vivisection and pet owning. This also relates to the questions she raises about objectivity, and how ethologists must grapple with the impossibility of absolute objectivity. In this way, being human not only drives all of our interactions with animals, it also controls our perceptions and interpretations of those interactions. So Fudge's book takes on elevated importance, even for the most die-heard speciesist who, after all, could appreciate this book for what it says about humans.This problem of our objectivity as humans also relates to "A Little Vicious" in that no one involved in the court case was objective - Hearne must have felt, or been made to feel, that she knew what was best for the dog behaviorally, for example. The question then becomes, how can an animal trainer harness their objectivity in order to better train their animals? How can people accept this objectivity and utilize it to deepen our unerstanding of another species? Can (or even should) we embrace our objectivity as an innate human quality, rather than attempt to smother it?
In Animal Erica Fudge states that there are two different approaches humans take in their relationships with other animals. The first involves humanities impulse to hold dominions over the animals and in the second humans are drawn towards animal stewardship. The example Fudge gives involves the fight taking place over baby calves being shoved into tiny crates and turned into veal. In this case many people were outraged and attempted to act as stewards for the animals involved, largely because they saw them as cute helpless babies torn from their families, instead of the less-cute larger cattle used in the production of beef. Although people’s relationship towards stewarding largely follows trends such as the one above, not all people only feel the need to steward cute baby animals they view as helpless. In the documentary “A Little Vicious” author and dog trainer Vicki Hearne takes up the case of a five year old pit bull named Bandit, who was sentenced to death over repeated cases of biting. Often people are drawn toward stewarding young or helpless-looking animals because they feel secure in a position of power over these animals, and consequently they do not feel threatened by their actions. Yet other types of animal stewards, such as Vicki Hearne, do not feel the need to assert the same kind of control over animals. These individuals attempt to familiarize themselves with the behavioral conditions and mannerisms surrounding different types of animals, such as Bandit. This leads me to the conclusion that based on our culture’s assertion that humanity is segregated physically and behaviorally from other animals, we largely approach our relationship with animals from a need for dominion rather than stewardship.
The relationship between animals and humans is a complicated muddled spectrum filled with contradictory beliefs and edicts. In the spectrum that carries love, we see that we humans feel guilt for our actions and have created vast amounts of excuses to carry out the actions we do. We feel guilt because despite our love for the animals, we still abuse/use them and we create excuses for the love of ourselves. We justify with foolish declarations and decree ourselves superior just “because we are.” Descartes, although an amazing contributor to our current belief system, like many philosophers, created nonsense truths to accommodate our lifestyle as he stated without proof, that animals are only shells of mimicking expression because they do not have the capacity for actual emotion and function solely on hardwired instinct and coincidence. This reasoning is akin to the long-term debate on abortion and stem cell research: reasoning created for the sake of the progression of science. We do not know if/when fetuses feel pain or when a person can be qualified as a person. The concept of the soul comes into question. Do animals have a soul?
‘Little Vicious,’ and Vicki Hearne’s essay ‘What’s Wrong With Animal Rights,’ both demonstrate the moral ambiguities and human contradictions surrounding the relationships between humans and animals. Essentially humans define animals in terms of their convenience and usefulness, and feeling the divine right to mexercise complete control. The diversity of opinions manifests in the animals inability to communicate or use language, ultimately leaving the judgments up to us. The film, ‘Little Vicious’ is the epitome of this manifestation when Vicious is put on doggy death row after biting two people, the latter being his owner. The first incident involved a woman who foolishly and aggressively approached the dog with a broom forcing the owner to put up a fence. Vicious bit his owner in the second incident. The dog, tied to the pit bull family, was quickly put on trial. Without any prior knowledge of his ‘warm’ and ‘loving’ nature, the courts gave Vicious the opportunity to complete a 90-day training session with animal rights activist Vicki Hearne… or be put to death. The film follows Vicki Hearne on her journey for justice while illuminating the issues surrounding animal rights. Should Vicious have the same rights we as humans have? Did he just mistake his owner for someone else or was he getting revenge for the newly installed fence that tightly caged him in? Why is a dog being put on trial? Regardless of how successful Vicki Hearne was for that 90-day period, could anyone predict whether Vicious would commit the same crime? Should the owner be held responsible for the dog’s actions? These answers are unanswerable and this lack of control ultimately led to the devastating separation of dog and owner. Vicious ended up in the care of Hearne.Sad yet endearing, the fact remains…the owner of Vicious was unable to continue training the dog, the courts didn’t want to be held responsible for another involuntary attack and Hearne showed the only ability to control the dog.In her essay ‘What’s Wrong With Animal Rights,’ Hearne continues to fight for animal justice claiming the human and animal organizations are wrong in equating animals with humans. She defines animal happiness as a reciprocal relationship where ‘work is the foundation’ and objects to the Humane Society and similar institutions having the power to grant rights to animals but meanwhile failing to increase animal ‘happiness’ (Hearne, 64). Unfortunately, not all animals have such knowledgeable or functioning owners; in fact, many are abused and wrongly treated which is initially why these institutions exist. They may not ‘increase happiness,’ but they do provide some necessary services such as neutering and in some cases a new owner. The Animal Rights Movement may be morally corrupt and support the idea of anthropomorphism but that maybe the one and only way people will learn to respect animals, in relation to themselves.
Some of the thinking outlined in Vicki Hearne’s essay and in A Little Vicious is somewhat unfamiliar to me. I can’t say I’ve ever really considered the legal status of non-humans within a broader juridical context of civil rights. I’ve certainly thought of a need to create some sort of intermediate status for our direct kin in the primate world, namely for chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans, but I’ve never thought of domestic animals like dogs as “citizens” of a particular kind. It’s true, pets and domestic animals do participate in the division of labor, occupying a specific and important niche that humans understandably can’t fill themselves. In some sense, their special status as companions or sustainers of human life should inherently afford them some cloak of legal protection, some designation of “rights” as such. They do contribute to the social order and their “labor” is unyielding; they are perpetually employed. We generally consider citizenship as a designation that exists within the domain of “freedom,” a freedom offered and defined by the polity of social value. Vicki Hearne suggests that animals might not operate within this same domain, that their notion of comfortable “freedom” might not be prescribed by matters of space, ownership, or captivity as such. When broken down in this manner, it honestly sounds a bit ridiculous to me as well. Animals certainly suffer and understand cruelty when it’s inflicted on them, but I don’t know that they’re are always cognizant of captivity or inclined to organize space into zones of control and ownership as we humans are. I liked one of the suggestions offered in class: that domesticated animals be granted some sort of legal status partway between property rights and minor’s rights. The pitbull case really intrigued me; how ridiculous is the idea of banning an animal from a particular social space? What concept of this space does the animal itself have? Do we care, or are we considering it a purely self-defensive measure?
Vicki Hearne’s argument that she proposes in her essay, What’s Wrong with Animal Rights: Of hounds, horses, and Jeffersonian happiness, is flawed, I believe, because of her approach of the very term she is trying to define. Happiness, one of the most abstract terms in the English language, has no concrete definition. That inevitable question, “What is happiness?” is one that has been debated for centuries. It is something that differs from individual to individual, explicitly case dependant. Hearne, however, attempts to assign a hard definition to the word as early as her opening paragraph, without much explanation. She intimates that the source of an animal’s happiness is purely through the work that it has been born to complete. She says, “Happiness for Secretariat is in his ebullient bound, that joyful length of stride.” This statement jumps out at me as ignorant of the plight of the racehorse. I would argue that a racehorse’s true happiness lies in the quiet of its pasture, chomping grass and neighing to its companions, and that if we were to somehow peer into its mind’s eye during that last stretch to the finish line, this is the scene that would greet us. Horses that are intended for the racetrack are trained in a very different manner than other animals whose purpose is companionship, including other horses. They exist solely for sport, and are trained to run, run, run, and as speedily as possible. They rarely are ridden by the same jockey from race to race, and are whipped mercilessly by all of them. This is why I say that the apparent joy seen in the beautifully powerful body of a racehorse as it gallops towards the finish line is actually joy in the fact that it will be returned to its ‘happy place,’ being the pasture, once the race has ended. There are many, myself included, who believe that animals belong where they originally came from: the wilderness. Hearne does make the point that animals in captivity live longer than those in the wilderness, and that “the wild is not a suffering-free zone or all that frolicsome a location.” I would argue again that a domesticated animal is happy only because it knows nothing other than the world within which it currently exists. Just because it has no knowledge of the world from which its genetic material originated does not mean that it wouldn’t be happier had it been born into it. I think that as a society we have been using animals as pets for our own mental well-being, animals as food for the satisfaction of our taste buds and animals as clothes for the image that it projects, but that we can do without any of it, and that if we were to do so, it would result in much happier a world, humans and animals alike.
I think the idea of animal’s civil rights is particularly interesting in regards to animals categorized as pets. In class we were talking about animals and children in the home and that a pet dog is a cross between a child and a protector. When the question was raised about training or mastering a dog the balance of power becomes more complicated when it is acknowledged that the may dog also serve also a protector. The idea of a mutual respect seems more imperative rather than the concept of mastery. When the question of training came up I realized that the dog I grew up with wasn’t necessarily “trained,” I don’t recall a process of training him. He learned behaviors in order to live in the home that were synonymous with the basic behaviors a human being would abide by as well, regarding where to go the bathroom, don’t bite each other, etc. A dog that lives in the home is a civil animal that based on its place in the world exists civically within a community. To me animal rights make sense as a stand in for the most basic functional human rights. Because one cannot comprehend what it means to be a dog or a bee we have to translate all knowledge through the limited lens of what it means to be human. In essence the speculations on the state of animal consciousness, happiness, whatever, is made into an allegory about human affairs. A good example of this is the animated shorts Creature Features where the anthropomorphized characters are interviewed about their feelings towards the zoo or the pet shop, they’re really standing in for human ideas regarding what it like to live in an apartment complext or how if feels to be loved, etc.
Erica Fudge’s “Animal” offers a multitude of different references and western cultural platforms to address our relationship, a very dominant relationship, with animals. Through theater, historical events, the home, popular media, and many other devices, Fudge illustrates our human tendency to prescribe an identity towards animals, our own mechanisms of distancing ourselves as well as bringing ourselves closer to them, and the very obvious naturalized need to control them.Historically, It was interesting to see the progression of our human insecurities towards animals, particularly in the 17th century, to our very complicated relationship with them in the 21st. Whatever progress has been made, in terms of dietary habits and views and actions, both academic, scientific, and on a more everyday level of interaction, humans will always have a difficult time not asserting themselves as dominant, whether it be conscious or subconscious.
This week’s reading and the film we watched really got me thinking about how our rules of conduct and societal behaviour have crossed over into how we think animals – some, not all – should behave. Dogs, specifically, are held to a standard of behaviour very close to that of humans. We train and teach them like we do other people. They are expected to behave “properly”, they are taught “good” and “bad”, they have designated areas in which to go to the bathroom, etc. As seen in the film, any violence or anti-social behaviour exhibited by dogs is, like humans, a matter of law and public debate. Again, like people, there is a value and class system put on animals. There are the workers and the expendables and there are the entertainers, companions, etc. A cow is a cow, a faceless, expendable thing, but a dog or a cat is a familiar and a family member. Humans spend so much time and energy preaching about the innate differences between animal and human, yet we impose our values and rules and them, expecting almost nothing less of them than we would of people. We spend our lives saying how different we are from them, but when rules are rules, are we that different?
Quite frankly, the most interesting part of Animal would probably be Fudge's introduction. As others have stated before, and I think quite rightly, Fudge seems to jump around a lot. This is not necessarily a problem as her arguments have cohesion despite the variance and poor overall construction. It is in the introduction in which Fudge lays the groundwork for a later explicated concept of Walter Benjamin: "... our greatest fear of animals is through contact - and I would include [sensory contact] -and the only way we have to overcome this fear and disgust is through mastery." Fudge does indeed do a novel job of explaining the historical facts which have lead humans to their own conceptualization of dominance in the Animal Kingdom. Fudge explains how mankind has grappled with the knowledge - or lack thereof - of it's place as a higher primate on a small but rare planet in a relatively backwoods galaxy in the expanding realm of space. In order to understand our own place we seek to dominate life around us - most notably ourselves - by means of consumption. Benjamin argued that the highest form was by way of literal consumption, "engulfing" the flesh of other animals, and for a long time in the course of human history, ourselves as well. What I found interesting was Fudge's expansion of this concept to include experimentation, hunting for sport, wearing, caging, anthropomorphizing, etc. It is in my opinion that the idea of consumption has persisted for two reasons: the failings of language as an understanding for other life, and the persistence of religious dogma in human history. These are obviously massive claims which would be hard to prove in a short blog entry, however, I am reminded of Temple Grandin in my first claim. Grandin is an autistic doctor/engineer/thinker who changed the cattle industry on a basic premise: that humans think in categorical language, and animals do not. She doesn't claim telepathy with animals, rather the ability to think extraordinarily visually and with attention paid to observational behavior. Language acts as a hindrance because of it's infinity and species exclusion. It simply does nothing in the ways of understanding why a bee is a bee, why animal x is animal x - and in fact, leads heavily to anthropomorphizing as a means of understanding. While it may not seem fair to act the entirety of religion, the prevalent two in Eastern and Western cultures: Judeo-Christian and Islam, do much to segregate man from animals by placing man at the top while erasing an evolutionary identity of all livings things. These are faiths which perpetrate man as having, "absolute dominion over the natural world." Had such absolutist faiths proposed harmonious relationships, or at least considered the lives of other beings as having a real value in relation to our own, the questions being proposed in this class may have been answered in the libraries at Alexandria.
It seems there's always going to be a struggle between humans and animals and the appriate distance that should or shouldn't be kept. On one hand, humans are eager to understand and make sense of animls and their worlds, but on the other, there is a certain distaste in comparing us to them. We can project our own thoughts feelings and behaviors onto them in order to try and understand, but no one wants an animals' thoughts, feelings or behaviors projected onto them because it would lower us on an evolutionary scale. Additionally, we don't want them to be TOO close to us because that might seem threatening. Pets are probably the closest and most comfortable we ever are with animals. We treat them as friends or family. I keep trying to figure out the idea that animals should have rights, which I agree with because they are living, feeling, conscious creatures, but that at the same time they also can't really be held responsible for their actions. If you agree with that concept then it's confusing to think about what level they should occupy. They're almost like children but not quite. Then again, some people tend to think that only some animals, like pets have rights. Then what aboutanimals that are bred for food? They're not at all on the same level as children and if they were then everyone would be much more horrified. And so the conundrum continues.