Placing Animals

“Man advances materially and ultimately in his civilization by breaking into the stored wealth of the world’s natural ecological climaxes” -pg 32

I really liked this quote, because obviously we use ecological resources for monetary advancement, but we are also rising in ranks of our own species as well as above all species. For example, one might become very wealthy and subsequently control other humans through their wealth, but they also control what happens to other species and the landscape. Specifically, Urbanik wrote about the whaling industry. Whaling is a popular industry as it is very profitable. The whole whale can be used and sold for a hefty profit. By increasing their wealth, the industry can afford more boats, workmen, etc. and subsequently had a large amount of impact on what happened to the whales, ocean, workmen, etc.

On page 40, the discussion of different approaches concerning the ethics of eating animals was very interesting to me.

Antropocentric:human happiness is all that matters, so yes animals should be eaten if that’s what humans want.

Biocentric: One should be concerned about the animals  being eaten

Geoethical: One should consider both the individual animal and the larger ecosystem. Consideration should be given to how the animal will be raised, what impact that will have on society, what is the scale of animals being produced, etc.

However, as humans it is virtually impossibly for us to not view things through an anthropomorphism view (giving animals or objects human characteristics). This means we must do our best to responsibly anthropomorphize.

“A way of knowing about and knowing with animals not based on our shared sentience, our  shared place in the world, or any other such abstract philosophical argument, but on our actual relationships, our day-to-day living and working” – Tim Ingold pg 40

This type of responsible anthropomorphism emphasizes interactions. We all share the common experience of being alive, that should be recognized, and thus our shared experience can give us insight into one another.

Human relationships and interactions can also be analyzed by looking at animal words that we use for humans. “Women can be bitches, pussies, pigs, cows, foxes, old hens, chicks, and cougars while men can be studs, dogs, and pigs-all these words signifying a particular animal.” This brings on the question, why? Pigs, cows, and female dogs are all pretty cute in my opinion, so why is there a negative connotation given to them when they are used in reference to a women.We also use phrases such as “my test guinea pig” or “proud as a peacock.” These terms and phrases all are normalizing the use or abuse of animals. Just like the n-word and the word retarded, we must be aware of the historical baggage that is behind these terms.

The use of animals is often controversial. They can be used for many services, which are listed on page 77. It’s important to notice some services are more/less controversial than others. For example, I personally am against almost all of the jobs listed, with the exception of therapy/support, herding/hunting, law enforcement, and certain other circumstances of service or laboratories. I realize that other people draw the line differently than I do, whether it be more strict or more lenient. This especially may vary based on culture. I personally, detest the idea of using elephants for logging, however, I have not grown up in an environment where using elephants for logging might mean life or death for my family. Those across Asia that are struggling to support their family are much more likely to be in favor of that service than those of us in the U.S. would be.

This leads to more difficult questions. Lab research concerning deadly diseases might lead to necessary animal testing, but using rats for science labs in high school or college might not be as necessary. That’s a difficult thing to regulate as well as draw the line for. What makes it okay for one person (or culture) to do it, but not another.


Other questions that are being brought up in today’s society is the use of transgenic animals- essentially genetically modified animals. Transgenic animals can be patented, but humans can’t. So what do we do when human embryos are combined with an animal like a mouse. Is it a human? Is it a mouse? Can we patent it? Should it even be allowed? Why is it okay to combine a chimpanzee embryo with a mouse embryo, but not a human? We have drawn the line between humans and every other animal, but with technological advances that bring up further questions we are being forced to draw new lines.

I oddly have no opinion concerning this. I can see why religious people might have an issue, but I haven’t heard a solid argument one way or another.

Does anyone have strong feelings one way or another?

On page 128 I was interested in reading about how focus groups find shoppers to be in one of two categories: enthusiastic consumers and inactive consumers. Consumers must work to understand the differences in labels and to realize that they must accept the responsibility of their choices. I know several vegetarians that are vegetarians solely in the way they purchase food. They don’t want to support the demand for meat and therefore do not purchase it. However, they actually have no problem eating meat, and will finish off someone’s plate of meat that they planned on throwing away.  Urbanik refers to this as “voting” in the grocery store, because those products are receiving monetary reinforcement.

Does anyone want to comment on their personal shopping experiences. Are you enthusiastic or inactive? Do you see your purchases as a vote?

As mentioned in Nature, labels don’t always mean something. What are anyone’s thoughts on labels like cage-free, grass-fed, organic, etc? Are you more inclined to buy these items? Do you believe they are more humane/healthier?

Any other thoughts?


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