Placing Animals Part 1

I like how this book comes out and raises the question of why we treat animals the way we do. The author (Urbanik) talks about how amazing it is to think about how we think about animals today. “We eat them, wear them, live with them, work with them, experiment on them, try to save them, spoil them, abuse them, fight them, hunt them, buy, sell and trade them, love them fear them or hate them” (1). We have all of these different feelings towards animals and have arguments over why are some animals food and some animals pets. There are many different views on animals and their importance in our society today about trying to save them and killing them for food. Many activists groups try to save some animals from getting killed while others are looking for fair treatment of animals. A good example is the tiger. There are more tigers in captivity today as pets than there are in the wild in the United States. We have always have had a fascination with tigers and want to save them from their wildness by taking them out of the wild and wanting some of the wildness for ourselves. We see it with people keeping tigers as pets and as a way to connect with their power by using them as mascots, emblems, and cartoon characters. 

In the 2nd Chapter, she talks more in depth on animal geography and the different phases it has gone through. When talking about animal geography, they first needed to study the animals. Study of animals was key part of discipline of animal geography and came to be known as zoogeography. This was seen as the first wave of animal geography and is defined as “the scientific study of animals on the earth and the mutual influence of environment and animals on the earth and the mutual influence of environment and animals upon each other” (28). Marion Newbigin, a Scottish geographer, viewed that animal geography should recognize how animals that live in natural regions form part of the features of that region.

Anheuser-Busch Brewery, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - Eagle carving 2

Eagle carving on Anheuser-Busch Brewery building.

The second wave of animal geography saw a rising interest in the impact of humans on wild animals and in human relations with livestock. The third wave or “new” wave is different from the other two by how a subfield that “focuses squarely on the complex entangling’s of human-animal relations with space, place, location, environment and landscape”. We usually see this with the use of animals as landmarks or visuals on buildings.

There are two different features that distinguish the “new” wave from the first two. The first is an expanded notion of human-animal relations beyond the domesticated livestock to include all locations of human-animal encounters and second that it attempts to bring in the animals themselves as subjects of their own lives- whether part of ours or not-instead of just as objects of human control.

Along with the topic of animal geography, she also mentioned Bill Lynn and his concept of geoethics. His concept provides a way to think through issues of right and wrong and how we can determine how we should live and interact with other species. He challenges paradigms such as anthropocentrism (Human matter), biocentrism (living beings matter), and ecocentrism (both living and nonliving systems along with their interactions matter) arguing that they are too rigidly ideal to be useful in sorting out human-animal relations. I like how geoethics recognizes both the whole (ecosystem) and the parts (individuals) that constructs a value paradigm with plural centers of moral value. For example, even though we might not treat a certain animal like a human, we should still consider them.

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