A level which must change if we are to meaningfully remove the various interlinked oppressions in modern societies. Whether or not sociology, with its own inherent anthropocentrism, can actually achieve this remains to be seen. Towards a Sociology of Human-Animal Abuse? The characteristics that are taken to be fundamental to human beings and the social life they lead together are precisely those, it is assumed, that distinguish them from animals, and make the human world different from the animal world.
Notwithstanding the emergence of Darwinian Theory, this assumed distinction between the human realm and that of animals is a persistent theme in social thought. Thus the overwhelming presence of animals in modern society is largely taken for granted by sociologists who either ignore animals completely or make the base error of assuming the very thing animals that they claim to investigate in the first place. Ultimately, the pragmatic and conceptual importance of animals in society, and especially that of companion animals, is an issue which the social sciences have virtually ignored.
For Mead, only humans, because of their ability to use language and interpret the gestures of others, could be considered capable of social interaction. This neglect of the human-animal relationship as an area of study can be at once both accounted for by, and seen as culminating in, an anthropocentric stance in sociology. Even when sociology has attempted to analyze animals in any serious way it has done so by treating them as objects, or it has done so anthropocentrically.
Following in the footsteps of phenomenological, anti-humanist thought ethnographic methods can be utilized to elucidate the ways in which people do actually treat animals and interact with them, and thus reflexively define them. This latter strategy draws on the tradition which sees the mind as a social construction rather than a biological given. These sentiments sustain the perception of the social world as intersubjectively experienced e.
Coulter, ; Schutz, The relevance of this line of thought to the study of animals within human culture is that seeing the world as intersubjectively constituted allows us to include animals. The proposition here, then, is that we can empirically investigate the role of animals in society by addressing human-animal interaction.
The last decade or so has seen significant intellectual movement towards this largely based on the work of several key symbolic interactionsists such as Goffman , Here, agency is defined as the propensity for self-willed action Irvine, This argument rests upon the notion of intersubjectivity, i. It is here that such arguments become problematic. These interpretations may just as readily be evidence of cultural assumptions, beliefs and taboos about animals as they are about animal minds.
It is not possible to move away from this; after all we cannot categorically know the mind or intersubjective reality of other humans with whom we share the linguistic ability that lets us explain our intersubjective states. Logic dictates that it would be more difficult therefore, to achieve this with other species. It also reiterates the kind of dualistic, hierarchical thinking which is at the basis of modern oppressions of animals and which sociology needs to move away from if it is to truly be sociological as opposed to simply being another facet of an epistemology which ensures the purification of categories Latour, If this is the case then such a theory is no different from current, hierarchically-based theories.
That is, whilst animals are accorded a space within social thought, it is only a space granted by humans, and the importance attributed to animals by such conceptions remains tied to their importance to humans. Thus their interest remains firmly in terms of their extrinsic, rather than intrinsic, value and any analyses of nonhuman animals which do occur tend to centre exclusively on individual, usually domesticated, companion animals. She further argues that individual instances of animal abuse are tied to those animals that are deemed subjects and that the vast majority of animal abuse takes place with animals that are deemed as object.
Those within the domestic violence sector will be well aware of the numerous examples of institutionalised violence towards women and children but may not be as aware of the myriad of examples of institutionalised violence towards animals. One recent example within Queensland, Australia was the Richmond townships bounty for feral cat pelts.
While numbers of certain species e. A broader, socio-cultural, perspective is needed, one which takes account of the institutionalised nature of such cruelties. This will allow us to move away from the individualising, victim blaming culture of which we are currently a part and thereby allow us to begin combating violence on a much wider scale.
Taylor, b. Similarly, arguments regarding the potential wildlife management techniques of hunting nonhuman animals again see the needs of animals sublimated under those of humans thus re-producing the hierarchies of inequality and oppression which legitimate such behaviour in the first place. In other words if we are to move towards a sociology of human-animal abuse, and indeed a sociology of human-animal relations in their entirety, current anthropocentric epistemologies will need revising from the very ground up. This will necessitate starting from a position which has room to acknowledge that animals and more broadly nature itself are not solely of interest when they are of benefit to humans in some way.
Animals and Women: Feminist Theoretical Explanations. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. Regarding Animals. Lafayette: Purdue University Press. BECK , A. Indiana: Purdue University Press. BOWD , A. Mind in Action. Images of Animals: Anthropomorphism and Animal Mind. DALY , B. New York. Free Press.
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