Review for Second half of Placing Animals (with a title this time!)

The second half of Placing Animals consisted of chapters 4-7. The first three were long but the concluding chapter was less than three pages long. The style and structure was similar, with an introduction to the particular subject at hand, followed by historical, economic, cultural, and, finally, ethical/political geography. This is followed by guiding questions for a discussion. This last part makes this feel didactic, like a textbook meant explicitly for the classroom, rather than a typical academic book.

Some highlights:

Chapter 4-Beasts of Burden: The Geographies of Working Animals

She divides these animals into service animals, entertainment animals, and educational animals, with overlaps in areas like zoos, which aim to educate, but entertain to pay the bills. In the “historical geography” section, she makes use of the concept of cultural hearths, or smaller geographic areas where a certain cultural activity began and spread out of. This is a Carl Sauer concept, a little old school, and, according to the critical geographers I read in GEOG 110, out of date and oversimplified. It works for this chapter though because often certain animal domestication practices can, in fact, be effectively traced to a point of origin. I learned in this chapter that both zoos and circuses as we know them today began in Europe in the 1700s. Something that irked me: she described Louis Pasteur’s medical techniques as “early modern.” This is wrong because any scholar of western history or literature will tell you that “early modern” refers to the end of the middle ages and the beginning of the Renaissance, or from 1300-1600, long before Pasteur’s time.

I found it interesting as well the fact that horse racing began in Central Asia and did not catch on in England until after the Crusades had opened up boundaries between East and West, even though it is now a quintessential part of English culture. SImiliarly, the rodeo was introduced by Mexican vaqueros.

I did not know the difference between AAA animals, who are pets most of the time but can act as therapy animals and AATs, who are working animals exampt from pet laws.

The economic section yielded an interesting statistical discovery: “the larger the GDP, the more animals are being used (for research).” It was refreshing to read this economics section because it seems to be more like real geography, grounded in the physical world with empirical evidence, rather than the stupid jargon and postmodern nonsense commonly found in critical geography. The map of animal research was interesting: Texas and California seem to have a great deal more labs than any other state.

Chapter 5-Down on the Farm: Geographies of Animal Parts

This chapter was in some ways an overview of the subject matter in Eating Animals because it clearly traces the development of farming from a smaller process to the industrialized system it has become; from full time farmers who owned their land to part time, desperately poor workers.

The economic geography section had maps showing consumption and production of different animal products in different countries around the world. Those that were top 20 producers had 1 color, the top 20 consumers had another, and the ones in both categories were striped. No country with a predominantly Muslim population was in the top 20 for pork, which made sense. Surprisingly, Canada, Mexico, the USA, Brazil, and Russia were not top 20 consumers of pork, although they were top 20 producers. Also, 1/5th of agricultural animals consumed in the world are eaten in the US! I found that Finland, Sweden, and Kazakhstan are all top 20 dairy consumers, but not top 20 producers. In the case of Finland and Sweden, perhaps that is because Scandinavian cooking uses a great deal of milk and cheese while Sweden has banned factory farming. It is impressive too that Australia had no livestock agriculture before 1788, but now is the top producer of beef, wool, mutton, and lamb.

Chapter 6- Into the Wild: Geographies of Human-Wildlife Relations

One of the big points here is that the animals that are most fascinating or charismatic in collective imagination are more likely to be preserved, regardless of their direct utility to humans or their niche in the ecosystem. Tigers are one example: Putin and Leonardo Dicaprio met in Russia to commit millions of dollars to their conservation.

The survey of European colonization’s impact on animal history was intriguing; colonization has encouraged some animal populations, discouraged others, and done both! For instance, passenger pigeons had a low population when Europeans arrived because they competed with native people for tree nuts. When Europeans killed off a large number of native people, the pigeon population exploded. Then, people hunted them back to extinction.

On the economic side, the map showing the percentage of hunters and fishers in each state was interesting. Predictably, California on the West Coast and New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey on the East Coast had an only 5-10% hunting population. Surprisingly though, several states in the south had few hunters. This is surprising, given the stereotype of both poor and rich southerners enjoying hunting. Also, Arizona and Hawaii had the smallest percentage of wildlife watchers, which baffles me because Hawaii is full of wildlife that is constructed as “exotic” and “beautiful” while Arizona has large tracts of wilderness.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: