‘Where do sausages come from?’ asked my
five-year-old son, recently. ‘Pigs’, I replied.
‘Yes’, he said, a little impatiently, ‘but where
do the pigs get them from?’
Judy Rumbold, The Guardian, 28.2.2001.
How do we justify our treatment of nonhumans? We lie - to ourselves and to each other, about our species and about others. Deceptive language perpetuates speciesism... Like sexism or racism...speciesism can’t survive without lies.
Joan Dunayer, Animal Equality: language and liberation.
This thesis has thus far suggested that many individuals hold fundamentally important socially-produced notions about meaning(s) associated with the idea of the ‘species barrier’; and precise meanings about human beings and about ‘animals’ which have found expression in long-standing philosophical thought, religious belief and many traditional and modern social practices and rituals. It has been noted that ‘species differences’ are not claimed by many animal rightists to be an ontological mistake (see Hayward 1997), or that all animal species could be treated in exactly the same way (Midgley 1983; chap 9) physically and perhaps even ethically. However, the animal rights case rests on the argument that species membership alone should not be sufficient to exclude many nonhuman individuals from basic moral consideration beyond that provided by traditional animal welfarism.
Whilst no animal rights philosopher expects exactly equal treatment between ‘species’, advocates tend to argue strongly that the preferences or interests of nonhumans should not be systematically and arbitrarily denied simply because they are not human beings (Regan 1985, 2000; Francione 1996a, 1996b, 1998). It has been seen that animals other than human are routinely, and by law, afforded some moral status. It is true that nonhuman animals may be ‘things’ in law (Midgley 1985; Francione 1996a, 1996b; Wise 2000), but they are at least recognised as sentient things who can be harmed both physically and psychologically and thus, humans widely accept a ‘duty of care’ toward nonhuman welfare (Scruton 2000). As a conesquence of this societal orientation, human beings are prevented from doing to animals absolutely anything that they might want to do to them. However, this does not prevent human beings from annually breeding billions of other animals in artificially high numbers, rearing and confining them in intensive ‘factory’ conditions, transporting them long distances to places of execution, and serving up their dead bodies as food. This ‘duty of care’ does not prevent human beings from breeding other animals in remarkably controlled conditions to create, for example, ‘pathogen-free’ nonhuman ‘models’ for use in vivisection experiments. Further, it does not prevent humans from hunting them down in acts of ‘pest control’, or simply in ‘sporting’ rituals, or in both at the same time; and it does not prevent many people regarding certain types of nonhuman animals as disposable toys, as presents, as part of collections, or for petting.
Animal rights scholar advocates such as Tom Regan and Gary Francione argue that the ‘duty of care’ - bound up as it is in animal welfare ideology - means that humans feel they are morally justified in routinely overriding the greatest interests of other animals in order to satisfy relatively trivial human desires (Francione 1998; Regan 2001). From his non-rights utilitarian stance, Peter Singer (1983: 232) notes that, when ‘interests’ clash - ‘even a clash between the life of a nonhuman and the gastronomic preferences of a human being’ - then it is usual for the human’s interest to win out.
It is surely a stark reflection of the low moral status of nonhumans that their very existence as individuals can be placed against human gastronomic choices. Furthermore, it is worth noting that few humans living outside ice-flows and particular desert environments need to treat other animals as if they were food; neither, given the existence, and the further potential development, of ‘non-animal methodology’, would all medical or toxicological research end without the use of nonhuman animals; indeed, some argue that human health would likely benefit without animal testing (Ruesch 1979; Sharpe 1988; Page 1997). Human beings are presumably imaginative enough to find other sporting endeavours with which to replace hunting nonhuman animals to their deaths; and they can also find alternative toys, presents and even pets.
It could be admitted that so-called ‘pest control’ represents something of a dilemma for animal rights advocates when compared with other forms of direct nonhuman harm at the hands (or knives and forks) of human beings. Former environmental journalist, Richard North, claimed recently that a widespread adoption of animal rights principles would result in entire cities being overrun by ‘sewer rats’, a situation which humans would simply be ‘forced to accept’ because they believe ‘animals have rights’. Similarly, a member of the audience during a televised animal rights debate asked panellists whether animal rights beliefs would prevent them striking a mosquito sucking blood from their arms.
However, as said, animal rightist have always accepted that some rights are likely to conflict with others of fellow rights bearers. Few animal rights advocates would therefore deny that individuals, groups and communities are justified in defending themselves from attack, including defending their food (or blood!) supplies. However, animal rights philosophy would rule out the automatic privileging of all human interests and rights above all nonhuman ones. For all the arguments and assertions about the ‘fanatical radicalism’ of animal rights views, many campaigners merely advocate placing some nonhumans ‘in the moral mix’ with other rightholders.
As indicated, current human-nonhuman relations, notwithstanding an orientation towards a duty of care for animals and an acceptance of animal welfare ideology, results in serious nonhuman interests being negated for the flimsiest of human ones. As suggested also, this may be seen, in part, as a ‘product’ of phenomenological understandings of ‘species membership’ and an acceptance that human beings unerringly sit at the top of a conceptual ‘natural order’ or ‘ladder’. Like Rousseau, all human beings are habitually encouraged to look downwards from a lofty ‘next to God’ vantage position on a ‘ladder of being’, and regularly defiantly declare: ‘What...shall I compare myself to the brutes?’ (quoted in Rosenberg 1955).
Having considered the construction of social beliefs with regard to human-nonhuman relationships and, in the last section, detailed how the perception of a barrier between human and other animals can be used to dehumanise human victims of oppression, the following section will focus on what might be regarded as some of the most influential social practices and social forces that maintain the ideology of the species barrier. This section not only focuses on the importance of human socialisation processes but on what Jim Mason (1993) terms ‘rituals of dominionism’ which occur daily in Western cultures within the precepts of an ‘agri-culturalist’ orientation towards nature. However, before consideration of these concepts, and prior to detailing animal rights thought in general, it will be beneficial to review perspectives on what it means to be born into modern societies that systematically exploit other animals for a variety of human ends.
Growing Up as Animal-Harming Animal Lovers.
Professor of psycholinguistics, Stanley Sapon (1998), investigates the culture of North America. He is interested in the cultural transmission of social values in general and, in particular, what humans tell each other and their children about the moral status of the nonhuman animals. Sapon outlines how and why cultural norms and values are transmitted within and throughout human societies, focusing on processes of socialisation or acculturation processes. He compiled a description of ‘American culture’ derived from travel agent guide books and brochures, school textbooks and publications from organisations such as Chambers of Commerce. From this variety of sources, Sapon finds that the culture of North America is generally characterised as being ‘loving, caring and nurturing of its children, protecttive of its disabled citizens and its fragile seniors, generous to its needy members, and holds high moral standards’ (ibid).
What is more: ‘Although America has been a ‘melting pot’ of many different cultures, its people are united by their commitment to peace, gentleness, and the rejection of violence. Its educational system is concerned with more than just academics, it places great stress on teaching and modelling moral values’. Furthermore, ‘Although there is no ‘state religion’, most of its citizens consider themselves to have in common a deep respect for the ethical principles embodied in the Ten Commandments’.
Finally: ‘American children are taught - in the home, in school and from the pulpit - to be kind to one another, to be kind to animals, to abhor cruelty of any sort, that violence is not the way to resolve conflicts, and that taking of life is wrong’ (ibid). In this ‘wonderful’ and ‘glowing’ self-appreciation of the culture of the United States of America, Sapon states that it is possible to clearly identify an ‘acculturation syllabus’ which the majority of North American children are exposed to. He sees a neatly packaged syllabus of general norms and values destined to ‘be passed on to the next generation’. However, he goes on to explore the ‘psychological consequences’ for people whose eventual empirical reality bears little resemblance to this normative syllabus. In his studies he finds a social reality ‘glaringly different’ from the cultural stereotype. He discovers social behaviour that denies, contradicts and ‘mindlessly violates’ the claimed ethical principles. Indeed, he argues that it the violations of the syllabus that are frequently relished and admired. This ‘profound discordance’ cannot be psychologically beneficial, Sapon suggests. How potentially confusing, he asks, is such a ‘two-tier value system’?
Sapon argues that dealing with these contradictions requires living in an ‘atmosphere of scrupulously maintained denial and deception’, in which adults deceive themselves, each other, and their children. ‘American culture’, he insists, is based on an ‘internally contradictory system for acculturating the children in our society’. Turning to how humans and other animals are presented to the young, Sapon says that adults, ‘typically raise children from birth to five or six years in a kind of fantasy-land of ideal behaviour on the part of the world’s inhabitants’. In this ‘land of goodness and mercy’, other animals are humanity’s friends, and ‘humans are friends to the other animals’. There are no scenes of bloodshed or any depiction of physical violence in children’s picture or storybooks. Instead, ‘children talk to cows and the cows talk back’ (ibid).
For ‘models of right conduct’ parents and children can look toward a range of talking animals - mice, ducks and hens, or ‘wise old bears and the like’. In scenes that reinforce the ‘safety’ of family life, animal characters are regularly used, typically depicted in scenes of nonhuman mothers looking after their ‘babies’. There is, of course, no divorce here, no child abuse, no neglect and no violent conflict between parents. Sapon moves on to develop a point that could perhaps be presumed; the point that, in these early publications, nonhuman animals are never seen being slaughtered for food, hanging upside down on ‘kill lines’, nor often shown in pieces on the dinner plate. When Paul (1996) considers the representation of other animals in children’s television programmes, a similar pattern emerges. Two major themes emerge. First, a ‘hierarchy of suffering’ in any depiction of animals in which cruelty to mammals was explicitly seen as morally wrong, while fishes and invertebrates ‘were largely excluded from moral concern’. Second, the tendency to avoid discussion - or depiction - of human beings using other animals as meat. According to Paul, ‘mammal meat’ was rarely consumed on television shows and when it was, its ‘origins were either heavily disguised or exaggerated into a joke’.
If these storybooks and TV programmes have an impact on children’s attitudes toward other animals, helping to shape what children believe animals are, and furthermore helping to set the moral climate when they are very young then, Sapon asks, ‘What happens when they get older?’ He argues that many older children are subjected to ‘a behavioural reconditioning programme’ in order that their perceptions move toward the reality of participation in the ‘denials’ and ‘delusions’ of the adult world (Sapon 1998).
With a nod toward the ethnomethodological concept of ‘indexicality’, which involves understanding based on individuals’ abilities to interpret events and utterances by employing their contextual knowledge (see Heritage 1984: 142-44), Sapon notes that psychologists use the term ‘cognitive map’ in relation to the links between the many things that people learn. The cognitive map:
suggests an image of a map that shows what fits with what, what ideas, what labels, what responses are appropriate in what settings, what contexts call for a special set of rules (Sapon 1998).
Furthermore, the cognitive map also indicates ‘appropriate attitudes and feelings that are linked to other items on the map’. After initiation into ‘the Garden of Eden map’, Sapon suggests that children hold an ‘utterly beautiful’ picture of the relationship between humans and nonhumans. Sapon seems to make this claim in relation to all North American children, although many children of ‘livestock farmers’, hunters and even ‘travellers’ would perhaps not be brought up wholly ignorant of the plight of nonhuman animals used instrumentally by humans. Nevertheless, he argues that around the time of primary school some aspects of ‘the real world’ are brought into all children’s consciousness. This change is obviously significant, since the ‘real world’ into which children are subsequently thrust is ‘a world where there are people who are mean, hurtful, cruel, deceitful, hostile, violent and murderous’. Sapon suggests that this is a time when children typically experience some form of ‘serious disillusionment’, when ‘animal friends’ are destroyed by ‘a culturally sanctioned programme of systematic desensitisation’. Other animals are transformed, he says, from fantasy figures and playmates who behave just like people and have feelings to ‘objects of utility’. Thus, in the ‘end of innocence’ in relation to the plight of some types of animals at least, children’s cognitive maps are socially rewritten or are at least subject to a process of refinement. At this point, certain nonhuman animals are ‘sheltered’ by ‘socially acceptable human compassion’. Those species, those Thomas (1983) calls the ‘privileged’ ones, are now cognitively and ethically separated into those within and those without the ‘circle of our compassion’ (Sapon 1998). Sapon states that there is an unwritten textbook entitled, ‘The Manual for Desensitising Children to
Cruelty and Adapting Them to Live in the Real World’ which perhaps can be regarded as an introduction to the inconsistencies in the ‘adult way’ of regarding other animals.
Sapon also suggests the social construction of ‘the good list’ for other animals. Notwithstanding that only a limited range of nonhumans (say, those often classified as ‘vermin’) are entirely placed almost completely outside of the general welfarist principle of ‘be kind to animals’, inclusion on the ‘good list’ is absolutely necessary to avoid the slaughterhouse, the dinner table, the laboratory or the ‘sporting arena’. Unsurprisingly, first on the list are ‘pet’ animals, ‘whom our culture describes as cute, loveable, cuddly, loyal, affectionate or noble’. These are not only dogs, cats and horses, but ‘gerbils, guinea pigs, ferrets, iguanas, parrots or other exotic animals’. Sapon also includes what he calls ‘performance animals’ on the ‘good list’, meaning animals such as race horses, homing pigeons, circus elephants and various others found in travelling circuses and zoos (ibid).
One of Sapon’s central points appears to mean attempting to understand how other animals are useful resources in the general cultural definition of acceptable and unacceptable compassionate behaviour. Even though there is a stark ‘rowing back’ from the ‘Garden of Eden map’, the treatment of certain types of nonhuman animals may still tell human beings many things about who and what they are. According to Sapon, this ‘retreat from Eden’ involves a ‘cognitive map adjustment’ - a child’s ‘ethical map’ is re-ordered: where once she was ‘rigorously and insistently taught - as a rule’ - that killing is wrong, she later finds that real life is not that simple, nor is it so pure or ethically consistent.
The construction of some animals as ‘pets’ - the elevated ‘select club of animal species’ (Cazaux, 1999: 105) - assists in showing that other species can be ‘sifted’, ‘sorted’ and ‘graded’ from once universal ‘friends’ into variously valued and useful categories; and sometimes into ‘useless’ and even ‘evil’ types. On the privileged ‘good list’ an animal is afforded the benefit of individuality, frequently given a name and commonly regarded, socially if not legally, as a ‘someone’ or a ‘somebody’ rather than a ‘something’.
As a psycholinguist, Sapon is interested in how language can be utilised in what he says is the necessary ending of children’s innocence about the world in general and human-nonhuman relationships in particular. On a general level, as children grow up in a culture ‘grossly conflicted about all forms of violence’ (1998, emphasis in the original), they realise and are told that the universal script based on ‘nobody gets killed’ is actually an illusion. Thus, the adult world has a ‘cultural formula’ to deal with this shift in perception and cognisance. Typically, the formula begins with human animals being placed at some centre or ‘core’, while other people are judged by their apparent moral distance from ‘humans like us’. Thus, killing ‘humans like us’ is called ‘murder’, whereas some human beings in some places may be killed if they are ‘criminals’. This killing is not ‘murder’, it is ‘execution’. Dread ‘enemies of the nation’ – (collateral) citizens as well as soldiers - may be killed in times of war.
Now that there has been a perceptual shift far away from the ‘nobody gets killed’ mythology, this type of killing is actively applauded and is labelled ‘heroic’; a good and vital ‘service’ to one’s country, or even the wider world; and, of course, an essential ‘service’ to some putative (and inevitably ‘decent’) value system. Aware of the connection between language and power (see Fairclough, 1989), Sapon states that words are not just words, they represent susceptibilities. The names we use - and, ideologically, the uses to which words are directed (Squires, 1990) - show the extent of our susceptibility, even as adults, to ‘the constraints on our ethical perceptions, and on our behaviour’.
When it comes to what adults ‘do’ to their children in socialisation, Sapon (1998) states that they are consciously aware - awfully aware he says - of the requirement to ‘reshape children’s perspectives’ in order that they can become ‘guilt-free carnivores’. Francione (1996a) suggests that our present attitudes to other animals are ‘hopelessly confused’ and Sapon seems to give some indication why this is the case. When it comes to acculturation about other animals, it appears that the typical process contains the strands of its own internal conflicts. For cultural, certainly economic, and for ‘indirect’ moral reasons, human societies do not teach utter ruthlessness toward other animals. For whatever reason society seem reluctant to teach its children that they need have absolutely no regard for nonhuman animals at all. But more than that, using other animals as cultural resources to teach children moral values appears to make it more difficult to subsequently justify exploiting them in the many and varied ways in which they are exploited. How modern human societies deal with issues such as killing other animals in order to eat them is to ultimately fudge the issue.
Liable to rely on the ability of animal welfare legislation to get them off some ‘moral hook’, humans build a ‘wall of carefully maintained ignorance’ to block any substantial return to what Sapon terms ‘old chords of compassion’ based on early socialisation. Building such a wall involves the avoidance of Freud’s ‘unpleasure’ (explored a little more fully in Part Two of the thesis), commonly requiring an increase in moral distance and a denial of ethically-relevant proximity. For example, total empathy for ‘meat animals’ must be suppressed and the empirical realities of the processes in ‘animal farming’ - artificial insemination, mutilations, fattening, transportation, slaughter - must be resisted, obscured and disguised.
In the end, Sapon states, human beings deliberately mislead each other about ‘how meat, fish, poultry, eggs and milk are actually produced for the market’. From a psychoanalytical standpoint, lying to oneself is as understandable as it is common. And why not? After all, the question has some value. While Foucault enlarged on Nietzsche’s knowledge = power thesis, the types of knowledge dealt with here represent power, certainly, but also pain. Sapon shows that the realities about what happens - the ‘what we do’ - to other animals are painful realities - as Adams frequently states, who wants to really know that what they are eating is a dead body? Thus, what makes more sense than to block out and deny such knowledge?
The illogicalities and inconsistencies which result from apparently contradictory socialisation processes have been a source of comment by many of the philosophers and campaigners involved in animal advocacy. Sapon does not doubt that, when the grown-up children of meat eaters adopt a vegetarian diet, this may be seen as representing the ‘ironic triumph’ of primary socialisation which inculcates empathetic respect for other animals in children. He emphatically states that, ‘It can be taken to mean to the parents that their children have ultimately accepted the validity of those early lessons’. Similarly, as emphasised earlier, in line with Wrong’s (1961) warning not to overemphasise value internalisation, and recognise that many taught values can be resisted and rejected, Sapon states that, ‘It also means that subsequent parental and societal efforts to re-educate this child, to re-write his or her ethical map, have failed’ (Sapon 1998). It is interesting to speculate, in the light of this, whether vegetarian and vegan adults have ‘reasserted’ primary socialisation values over secondary ones, or have negated the latter values based on the re-mapping Sapon discusses without ‘returning’ to primary values. Indeed, such points may go some way to understand the many animal rights advocates who cling to some degree or other to sentimental views of animals rather than – or, often confusingly, in addition to - developing their opposition to animal abuse purely as a matter of justice or, say, the logic of rights theory.
Paul (1996) concludes that ‘adult society’ suffers a painful discomfiture surrounding the ‘paradox’ of advocating kindness to other animals generally (and especially to other mammals), while excusing and justifying killing animals - or placing them harmful situations - for human use. It seems that the experience of author Maureen Duffy bears some resemblance to Sapon’s and Paul’s perspectives in that she struggled with paradoxes about attitudes to other animals and also found it possible to reject ideological socialisation about meat eating, a first step in her ‘journey’ towards animal advocacy.
The first section of the introduction to Duffy’s book, Men and Beasts (1984: 3) expresses the experiential reality of most modern British people when she says: ‘I grew up in a meat-eating world’. As social anthropologist Nick Fiddes (1991) has shown, there have been several ‘meatologies’ about the assumed goodness and even the biological ‘necessity’ of meat-eating. However, meat-eating is often regarded as much more than an assumed human requirement. Duffy says she was brought up to believe that meat was ‘goodness itself’ and consequently a meal without meat did not have ‘a bit of goodness in it’ (1984: 3, emphasis in original). For the young Maureen Duffy, meat was something everyone she knew wanted to eat, although some could not afford it. If people sometimes chose not to eat meat, she could only imagine that they were of a different social class, whose ‘elegant restraint’ from meat was to give them, apparently through a form of inverted logic, some additional social standing or, more practically, a variation from the large amount of roast game they usually consumed.
Whereas some staples such as white bread were understood as bulky stomach-filling foods, it was known that ‘flesh foods’ were absolutely necessary for growth and health ‘as if by eating a dead animal its strength and powers were transferred to you’ (ibid). This latter point is something of a remarkable throwback to accounts of cannibalistic thought (see Leakey & Lewin 1979). Once Duffy experienced overseas travel and observed the gradual availability in England of what she had been brought up to regard as ‘messed-up foreign food’, she increasingly found that she needed ‘some explanation of the world which included meat eating’ (1984: 4) - clearly, any ethical ‘re-writing’ she experienced did not quite have its intended effect.
Yet, she quite readily found several conventional animal-harming explanations open to her, including most of the religious and philosophical views that have been encountered earlier in this thesis and, she notes, she probably adopted all of them one after the other. Such accounts as Duffy’s seems to provide some evidence of the importance of the processes Sapon describes, as well as reaffirming the error of overly generalising sociological data and the determining effect of social processes. On the other hand, the effects of social processes such as primary and secondary socialisation are not to be ignored if one wishes to get some valid understanding of sociological patterns of behaviour and the grounding of long-influential social views and widely-held attitudes and orientations.
The following parts of this chapter of the thesis attempts to underscore some of the social/social psychological consequences of this growing up in Duffy’s ‘meat-eating world’ - or more generally, of growing up in a world in which people harm and kill animals, or have animals harmed or killed on their behalf for a variety of reasons. Subsequent chapters investigate how important and complex ‘social lessons’ may fundamentally colour societal views, and be a rich and valuable resource when evaluating the messages emanating from the relatively new animal advocacy movement.
Sociologists and others appreciate that processes of socialisation never end: that it starts virtually the moment humans are born and goes on until the day they die. The assumed social influence of these processes can be gleaned from other terms which have be used interchangeably with ‘socialisation’, such as ‘acculturation’, meaning the process ‘by which persons acquire knowledge of the culture in which they live’ and the anthropological concept of cultural transmission employed by Sapon: ‘enculturation’. In sociology, students learn that primary socialisation is extremely important as it represents foundational social knowledge which human beings draw upon to navigate their way in the social world.
Building on - and attempting to develop - the fairly general outline presented earlier, it seems clear that individuals’ long and intense experience of processes of socialisation are tremendously important in understanding how human beings relate to other animals in the ways that they do. Described below is some of the content of the social knowledge offered to children (and parents) about nonhuman animals via early-reading books, magazines, games and through television programmes. It seems almost certainly true to claim that people’s early and continuing cultural views and general social attitudes - for example, used when individuals play their part in the construction of ‘nature’ and other animals - are greatly dependant on the knowledge they gained through complex processes such as those detailed by theorists like Sapon.
Many social scientists will emphatically suggest that early socialisation is extremely important in a person’s ‘life career’ in society, and Bauman (1990: 24) noted and underlined that ‘the group’ helps to make the person. Concentrating on language and social interaction as Sapon does, Habermas (1976: 43) states that ‘the process of socialisation takes place within structures of linguistic intersubjectivity’. In early primary socialisation, a child’s group consists primarily of his or her parents. Parents represent a baby’s earliest ‘linguistic interactionists’ and the first influential ‘tutors’ in the generational transmission of social norms and values. While regularly giving recognition to views that some accounts may suggest the ‘oversocialised’ view of ‘passive humanity’, the claim that the socialisation process has a powerful impact on individuals nevertheless appears justified. Earlier, Bauman’s claim that the ‘utmost exertion’ is required of those wanting to change what they have been ‘made’ into was cited. Therefore, a wish to change and resist involves effort, self-sacrifice, determination and endurance: it is far easier to live ‘placidly and obediently in conformity’ (ibid.: 24-5).
Given this apparent all-encompassing - but not all-determining - influence claimed for socialisation, it is of little surprise that resistance to it may be regarded as rather difficult. On the other hand, it seems sensible to assume that some elements of social knowledge and learning will be far easier to deny than others. It may be that the ‘depth’ of Bauman’s notion of sedimentation may be of great importance here. Moreover, individuals may well differ in terms of accepting or actively resisting their ‘lessons of socialisation’, a point emphasised in the previous section on dehumanisation in relation to reactions to pornography. This subject is re-examined a little later in this section.
It appears necessary and entirely appropriate to adopt a social psychological approach to the issue of socialisation in order to appreciate both its institutionalised and internalised dimensions. For example, while Piaget notes the important part socialisation plays in cognitive development, and Freud claims that a family setting leads to the acquisition of a solid moral and personal identity, sociologist Mead suggests the simultaneous acquisition of the concept of self and of social identity. Similarly, Durkheim suggests that socialisation processes involve the internalisation of general group values and moral categories, and the anomic results of not doing so. Bernstein, like Habermas, concentrates on social skill development through interaction and linguistic communication (see Jary and Jary 1995: 613). Given such standard social scientific claims, Bauman’s statement that individuals are greatly dependent on the group which ‘holds’ them appears entirely plausible. Furthermore, recall that David DeGrazia (1996: 44), speaking about human attitudes to other animals, also argues that resisting dominant values and ideas takes a great effort and an extraordinary independence of mind. Bauman’s (1990) perspective suggests we should not underestimate this point.
Since part of the ‘power of common sense over the way we understand the world and ourselves (the immunity of common sense to questioning, its capacity for self-confirmation) depends on the apparently self-evident character of its precepts’ (1990: 14), the reaction to new knowledge that succeeds in supplanting existing attitudes may lead to a feeling of humiliation. For ‘what is known’, often ‘known’ with an element of pride, ‘has now been devalued, perhaps even shown worthless and ridiculed’ (ibid). Thus, the suggested influence of socialisation processes in the construction of human culture means that it represents an important factor in explaining how people may approach, understand and react individually and/or collectively to pro-animal claims making.
Furthermore, given the relative lack of controversy in traditional welfarist-inspired views of human-nonhuman relationships, the general response to recent animal rights views are inevitably informed by such long-held attitudes that are consciously and unconsciously sedimented by processes of socialisation, themselves apparently fundamentally informed by the long-standing, influential and pervasive ideology of animal welfarism. Moreover, since welfarist attitudes about human-nonhuman relationships tend to be largely regarded as both ‘mainstream’ and ‘reasonable’, these are the views on the human treatment of other animals most easily seen as relatively unproblematic, historical and normative (Singer 1985; Garner 1993; Gold 1998; Kean 1998; Regan 2001). Therefore, any ‘systemic problems’ which may arise every now and then in relation to the human use of animals as resources are generally seen as, and loudly proclaimed to be, resolvable through existing (or still required) animal welfare regulatory mechanisms by means of additions to the numerous acts of legislation which have derived from widespread societal commitments to the ideology of animal welfarism.
The apparent social loyalty to animal welfarism means that if ‘problems’ are perceived in existing practice and/or legislation (and Wise [2000: 181] states that every jurisdiction he is aware of has enacted ‘anticruelty’ legislation), then it assumed that the remedy lies in simply ‘strengthening’ existing legal measures, or closing perceived loop holes, rather than ‘unnecessarily’ engaging in fundamental reviews of the ethics of using other animals for human ends in the first place. For example, the officially declared rationale put forward by the British government for the introduction of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act in 1986 (legislation on the licensing and regulation of animal experiments) was predicated on the notion that it would update and thus significantly ‘improve’ the provisions of its predecessor, the antiquated and outmoded 1886 Cruelty to Animals Act. Thus, legislation was allegedly introduced to further ‘protect’ experimental animals through stricter licensing procedures, a factor trumpeted ever since by animal experimenters and British Home Office officials in response to anti-vivisectionist and animal rights claims. Likewise, members of parliament in the 1990’s who were sympathetic to the aspirations of the single-issue pressure group the League Against Cruel Sports, attempted to introduce what they regarded as progressive legislation (for example, the 1992 Wild Animals (Protection) Bill and the 1995 Wild Mammals (Protection) Bill) to protect a number of wild animal species as various welfare concerns arose about the absence or inadequacy of existing protection (on such incremental animal legislation see Gold 1995: 4-7).
Animal welfarism - and the legal provision inspired by it - seductively suggests that no root and branch changes are necessary or desirable in human-nonhuman relations, society merely needs to observe a certain extra vigilance to ensure that regulatory and control mechanisms are sufficient to meet all the requirements embedded in the notion of ‘non-cruel’ animal exploitation. It is not difficult to imagine why this orientation can appear seductive to so many, since, echoing similar pressures on once radical sociologists to become ‘realist’ in attitude, animal welfarism seems so reasonable and even pluralistically responsive to the interests of all parties involved, apart, quite naturally, from those who make ‘unrealistic’ demands. By the same token, Hans Ruesch (1979: 333-35) notes that many in the modern anti-vivisection movement have tend to adopt ‘controllists’ and ‘abolitionists’ orientations, with the former being defined as inclined toward welfarism in the belief that animal experiments can be sufficiently regulated to the extent that ethical concerns are largely ameliorated. Of course - and as discussed in Part Two - such orientations become the stuff of much inter- and intra-movement strategising in often intense and potentially devisive tactical debates which social movement theorists Kuechler and Dalton (1990) see as common tensions that arise among considerations of long term social movement fundamentals versus daily campaigning pragmatics.
Socialised Lessons About Other Animals:
Welfarism all the Way.
Building on Sapon’s (1998) points above, what kinds of attitudes are likely to influence young children in terms of their social learning about human-nonhuman relations? As part of their normal, everyday, social interaction, in what forms are children presented with information about such relations? Moreover, what are children customarily told about the meanings applied to ‘human’ and ‘animal’ categories? Accepting that the vast majority of socialised attitudes about the human treatment of animals are infused with animal welfare ideology, the treatment of animals seen as ‘below’ the standards demanded by animal welfarism are regularly criticised in books and other ‘educational’ publications (in the latter case, in publications often funded and/or published by ‘pro-use’ industries and often available from veterinarian surgeries) about the care of ‘pet’ animals (see, as an example, Watson 1994).
Hilda Kean (1998: 44-7) notes that throughout the 1800’s in Britain, a great deal of printed information about the ‘proper treatment of animals’ became increasingly available for both adults and children. While adults were informed by the Zoological Society’s gazetteer, the formation of the London Mechanics’ Institution, and the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge’s weekly Penny Magazine, a growing number of publications became intentionally aimed at pet-keeping children. By the 1970’s, there were hundreds of titles such as Domestic Pets: Their Habits and Management (ibid.: 47).
Along with the predictable stress on the welfarist doctrine of ‘caring’ for animals, many writers reinforce a ‘humans on top’ dominionist message. For example, Mary Wollstonecraft’s Original Stories (full of advice for children and servants) contained the following: ‘Let your superior endowments ward off the evils they [animals] cannot foresee’ (quoted in ibid.: 46). An investigation of current messages about humans and nonhumans in cultural products aimed at children reveals that little has changed.
Baa Baa Lambs, Talking Cows and Wise Old Bears.
Apart from having pet animals around the house, much of children’s early information about nonhuman animals derives from the representations of them in books designed to be read by - or with - parents. Of course, it might be expected that an increasing amount of even very young children’s access to information in the West takes other forms, such as via the TV and now perhaps more and more, the internet. In terms of the actual face-to-face interaction between parents and children, the latter are effectively subjected to parental interpretations during explanations of topics they read about or see together. Therefore, in the light of Sapon’s thesis, if parents do interact with children using books about other animals, and if they explain to their children events in television programmes, they may inevitably become the influential primary definers of the situations in question. Perhaps anticipated from the preceding discussion, it might be expected that the early experience of knowledge about animals is regularly populated by cute ‘baa-baa lambs’, and often by Sapon’s ‘talking cows’ and ‘wise old bears’ (Sapon 1998).
Singer (1983: 239) has complained that youngsters often learn more factual knowledge of the lives of the wild animals in far away lands, such as cheetahs and sharks, than of the ‘farm animals’ who may exist just around the corner or in the very next town or village. One response to Singer’s point may be to note how modern children can often get direct experience of farmed animals in so-called ‘city farms’, ‘show farms’ or the children’s corners of zoos and some public parks. However, such places are relatively few in number and, perhaps of greater importance, are extraordinarily unrepresentative of the average ‘working’ farm. For example, often due to public safety considerations, city farms contain a large number of small and young farm animals for children to stroke and touch. Thus, piglets rather than adult pigs may be present, many more small lambs than full-grown sheep, and so on. More unrealistically, such animals are often mixed in these settings with other types of nonhuman animal, such as various ‘breeds’ of rabbits, who would hardly be the most welcome visitors on ‘real’ or ‘working’ farms.
A recent consequence of continuing rural economic decline has been the establishment of so-called ‘farm parks’ or ‘genuine working farms’ open to the public where, typically, children are invited to ‘meet the animals’. This commonly involves the thrill of bottle feeding goats, calves and lambs. Featuring a cartoon of a smiling pig called ‘Boris’, one advertising leaflet for a ‘working farm’ declares that its has ‘loads of animals, both big and small to see, touch, feed, stroke, cuddle, hear, smell - and even ride!’ Being a ‘genuine working farm’, there is likely to be far more of the larger animals absent from smaller city farms, and thus, ‘you may be able to watch the farmer shear the sheep and plough and harvest, and help him collect the eggs and round up the sheep’. Rather unsurprisingly, other ‘routine animal farming practices’, such as removing piglets’ teeth and tails with pliers, the so-called ‘de-beaking’ of chickens and sending animals to the slaughterhouse are not advertised on the leaflet as of potential interest of children - or indeed, their parents or guardians either. However, it is possible to eat at the farm picnic area, ‘whilst watching the animals in the surrounding paddocks’.
Television, Books & Games.
If one never visited a ‘genuine working farm’ and therefore relied solely on television programmes for information about the lives of ‘farm animals’, then Singer’s complaint appears to be fairly well founded. For example, ‘animal documentaries’ on television are overwhelmingly concerned with wild and undomesticated animals, or with pet animals in shows such as Rolf Harris’ welfarist-orientated, RSPCA-advertising, Animal Hospital. The lives and deaths of many hundreds of millions of farmed animals are apparently largely unseen by television audiences who physically digest their body parts, which may go some way to explain the horrified public reaction to the unusually extensive daily news coverage of visible animal deaths in the 2001 foot and mouth outbreak in Britain.
Singer’s point is perhaps underlined by looking at a randomly-chosen week of programmes on the cable TV channel, Animal Planet (June 2-8, 2001). The channel featured in seven days more than 200 showings of programmes entitled ‘Monkey Business’, ‘Croc Files’, ‘Pet Rescue’, ‘Zoo Chronicles’, ‘Wild Treasures of Europe’, ‘Emergency Vets’, ‘Crocodile Hunter’, ‘Postcards From the Wild’, ‘Animal Emergency’, ‘Hyena: Savannah Superhunter’ and so on. Only one programme in the entire week, called ‘Country Vets’, appeared to have any potential to feature farmed animals as its substantive subject matter.
If ‘farm animals’ are largely absent from television coverage of animals in general, the same general comment certainly cannot be said of children’s ‘early-reading books’. Here, it is quite conventional to find the depiction of farms with typical ‘stock’ animals such as cows, sheep, pigs, cart horses and chickens, as well as sheepdogs and the farm ‘mouser’. In many books the entire narrative concerns events on farms apparently containing nonhuman animals but no humans at all. Quite often, such stories seem to lack any direct evidence of human habitation, or their interest in the farm business, or in any of the events and adventures that take place. Often, entire societies of various nonhuman animals populate these places, with an apparent emphasis on the decision-making autonomy of the animals concerned and little suggestion, especially in books designed for the younger child, that any current or future human utilisation of animal ‘resources’ takes place. For example, if cows are to be milked in stories which actually feature human ‘farmers’, it is implied or openly stated that the milk is for the benefit of all the other animals on the farm.
Quite obviously, and in line with Sapon’s thesis, any suggestion of animal harm in such publications is generally out of the question until the near-teen market is taken into consideration. The remarkable aspect about books featuring nonhumans, then, is not the absence of farmed animals but the virtual absence of reality about their lives. Of course, as said, there are publications showing farms ‘complete’ with (male) animal enslavers (and their smiling wives!). These present a slightly more realistic view of ‘farm life’. From an animal welfare point of view, these particular children’s stories rarely show anything other than an ideal-typical depiction of nonhuman animals and the peaceful and joyful relationships that they have with kindly humans. While television documentaries about wild animals - and to a much lesser extent, the pet shows - attempt to portray the ‘nature red in tooth and claw’ experience of some animals (with an apparent on-going fascination with nonhumans’ sex lives), the depiction of the genuine life experiences of farmed animals is systematically sanitised (Robbins 1987) in many children’s books.
For example, the picture book, Stories from Mudpuddle Farm (Morpurgo and Rayner 1994), written for children ‘who are just beginning to enjoy reading’, introduces readers to Jigger, the ‘almost-always-sensible’ sheepdog, Mossop the cat, Captain the horse, Frederick the cockerel, Farmer Rafferty, Penelope the hen, Upside and Down the ducks, and Auntie Grace and Primrose the dairy cows. Farmer Rafferty himself is described as ‘usually a kind man with smiling eyes’ (ibid.: 11) who evidently enjoys a friendly social contract and a constructive working relationship with all the other animals. In Mudpuddle Farm, each and everyone has a job to do and old-smiley Rafferty tells the various animals: ‘You look after me, and I’ll look after you’ (ibid). Many of the nonhumans are shown living happily in their family groups, looking after their offspring, another common theme in such publications.
The cosy consensus is maintained as the entirely free-range hens agree to lay eggs for the farmer, while the ever-smiling cows ‘let down their milk for him’ (ibid.: 13). However, if readers were in any doubt, a few pages on they learn that the human animal is actually a little more equal than the others when Farmer Rafferty loses his temper after finding mice on the farm. He asks after the whereabouts of the cat in ‘a nasty raspy voice’ he kept for ‘special occasions’ (ibid.: 20).
The simplest books about animals, such as the Ladybird ‘toddler talkabout’ series, often appear designed to encourage children to count and make approximate noises of different types of nonhuman animal. In I Like Farm Animals (Ladybird 1998) a farm is depicted complete with the seemingly obligatory smiling animal enslaver and the happily grinning animals. All the various animals are pictured together, often with their young; with not a single cage in sight. In fact, readers are told that the different animals have their own ‘homes’ in which they live. Of course, few would ever expect to see a single battery hen cage, or a veal crate for calves, or a pig farrowing crate in these publications for the very young, yet to talk of such animals having ‘homes’ is nothing less than highly misleading.
Books for slightly older children predictably have more complicated narratives. For example, in Nubbins and the Tractor (Sinnickson 1980), the horse in the story is presented as human property, which correspondents with the actual status of most horses. Indeed, when the animal is threatened with being replaced by a newly-purchased tractor, his salvation is based on the possible transfer of his ‘ownership’ from farmer to son. The boy learns that his father is intent on selling the newly-redundant horse and appeals to him: ‘Don’t sell Old Nubbins!’ Although the boy declares that he and Nubbins are ‘friends’, he demands ownership of the horse: ‘Give him to me, and he and I will help you with the work’. When the new tractor breaks down, Nubbins is shown to be quite over the moon at the prospect of being strapped back into his old harness and he blissfully sets off for a day of ‘hard work’. Eventually the boy gets the official ownership of the horse and the book ends with both owner and owned pictured apparently deliriously happy about their master-slave relationship.
If parents want a break from book reading, they can purchase children’s videos such as ‘Fourways Farm’, made in 1997 for Channel 4 Television and narrated by popular actor and radio personality Martin Jarvis. Here, in several stories written for children up to seven years of age, another community of co-operative animals are to be found. All co-operative with the exception of three ‘bad rats’ who are stereotypically depicted as scheming ‘gangsters’ who ideologically declare: ‘We don’t do nice things, we’re rats’. However, all the other residents are demonstrably ‘nice’; the cow, the horse, the duck, the dog, the cat and (another stereotype and slightly less than nice) the typically ‘greedy pig’. All the animals, the title song tells viewers, ‘say hello to the morning sun’, and they all have ‘food to eat’. In Fourways Farm, there is no human cruelty to nonhuman animals and no actual ‘farming’ seems to takes place at all: in fact, no humans are ever seen in the video or interfere in the happy-ending adventures of the nonhuman characters.
Once children have digested the message that farms are idyllic places for nonhumans and, although animals are legal property who may be bought, sold or passed from one generation to another, they understand that this status tends to somehow benefit the nonhuman individuals in question. They are perhaps now ready and prepared to play the 1984 Fisher-Price distributed board game for 5-10 year olds, Market Day, which (according to the box) is ‘a fun-filled game for young children, collecting horses, cows, pigs and sheep from the market’:
Each farmer races around the board collecting voucher cards for the animals he needs to complete his farm. When he has enough for a horse, a cow, a pig or a sheep he can buy that animal next time he goes to the market.
However, and with a little justification, the game is described to be just like ‘real farming’ and therefore ‘things can go wrong’ for the market-bound farmers. However, there is unsurprisingly no mention of BSE, nor swine fever, nor foot and mouth disease in the context of the players’ potential animal farming ‘problems’. Rather, the difficulties encountered are somewhat less serious: tractors fail to work, pigs sometimes escape and naughty sheep jump over farm fences. What might be the ‘end product’ of such animal farms, or the ‘final destination’ (final solution?) of the animals collected by each ‘farmer’ is not explained or explored. Animal welfarism hardly ceases in proclaiming, as it was daily reaffirmed in the 2001 foot and mouth ‘tragedy’, that farming nonhuman animals is ultimately about ‘caring’ for them on farms.