Animals and Human Society: Changing Perspectives
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Modern society is beginning to re-examine its whole relationship with animals and the natural world. Until recently issues such as animal welfare and environmental protection were considered the domain of small, idealistic minorities. Now, these issues attract vast numbers of articulate supporters who collectively exercise considerable political muscle. Animals, both wild and domestic, form the primary focus of concern in this often acrimonious debate. Yet why do animals evoke such strong and contradictory emotions in people - and do our western attitudes have anything in common with those of other societies and cultures? Bringing together a range of contributions from distinguished experts in the field, Animals and Society explores the importance of animals in society from social, historical and cross-cultural perspectives.
co-ordination of all other behavioural patterns in the social evolution of humans. It was this communal way of life that enabled Palaeolithic peoples to achieve worldwide distribution by the exploitation of other animals in their environment, whether these were fish, reptiles, birds or mammals (Nitechi and Nitechi 1986). Humans were not the only beings to have been so successful as broadspectrum social hunters; half a million years ago the wolf was equally successful but it was pushed into second
This originally religious association of our two species led to the development of widespread cattle-culture pastoralism as well as to plough-based plant cultivation which relied on ox power. This provided the food surpluses and wealth which were the keys to civilization.40 Finally, it seems that the Romans added little that was original or very significant to pre-existing cattle culture. But they do indicate how, as time went on, these earliest relationships between the human and bovine species
preparation for its existence. Humanity was the crown of creation, destined to rule over nature and use it for its own ends (see Plate 4.1). Consequently, whatever taxonomy there was of the natural world, it was purely functional and anthropocentric. The thirteen-century encyclopedist Bartholomeus Anglicus provides perhaps the most succinct summary of this view: ‘All types of animals, domestic and wild beasts as well as reptiles, were created for the best use of man.’ Certain animals, such as
supposed that from some of its members the far-famed Unicorn would be made out’; Robert Hamilton identified whales, walrus and seals as ‘the original types of nearly all these wondrous tales’ about mermaids.49 Others were still more openminded, discriminating, for example, between the unicorn, which one naturalist dismissed as a creature, ‘which, if it ever did exist, is now to be found no more’, and the mermaid, ‘partly a fish, and partly of the human species’, for which, he asserted, ‘there
cats came in and were killed. As one worker said, ‘They are constantly coming in. On a bad day, you might have to do it [euthanasia] fifty times. There are straight months of killing.’ Another observed, ‘After three hours of killing, you come out a mess. It drains me completely. I’ll turn around and see all these dead animals on the floor around me—and it’s “What have I done?”’ And yet another worker noted: It’s very difficult when we are inundated from spring until fall. Every single person who