Sociologists have largely ignored the role of animals in society. This article argues that human-animal interaction is a topic worthy of sociological consideration and applies a sociological analysis to one problematic aspect of human-animal relationships? animal cruelty. The article reformulates animal cruelty, traditionally viewed using a psychopathological model, from a sociological perspective. The article identifies social and cultural factors related to the occurrence of animal cruelty. Ultimately, animal cruelty is a serious social problem that deserves attention in its own right, not just because of its association with human violence. Twenty years ago, Bryant (1979) chastised sociologists for their failure to address what he termed the “zoological connection.” Sociologists, he argued, “have tended not to recognize, to overlook, to ignore, or to neglect (some critics might say deservedly so) the influence of animals, or their import for, our social behavior, our relationships with other humans, and the directions which our social enterprise often takes” (p. 399). Two decades later, with few notable exceptions, Bryant’s critique unfortunately is still justified. As Arluke and Sanders (1996) observed, “Most sociological research is anthropocentric (or human-centered) and focuses on relationships among humans” (p. 2). Yet in the last few years, concerns about humans’ relations with other animals have, in Beirne’s (1999, p. 119) words, “infiltrated” sociology (Arluke & Sanders, 1996; Nibert, 1994; Sanders, 1993; 1999; Human-animal interaction, 1994). Sociological analysis of human-animal interaction, of the role of animals in society, is important for several reasons. According to Arluke and Sanders (1996), “It will show us, among other things, how meaning is socially constructed through interaction. It will also show us how we organize our social world and how we see our connection (or lack of it) to other living things” (p. 4). This article applies a sociological analysis to one aspect of human-animal interaction?animal cruelty. In the spirit of Beirne (1997), the purpose is “to contribute to an as-yet-unconstituted sociology of animal abuse” (p. 318). Following Ascione (1993), animal cruelty is defined as "socially unacceptable behavior that intentionally causes unnecessary pain, suffering, or distress to and/or death of an animal" (p. 28). This definition excludes practices that are socially acceptable (e.g., the humane killing of farm animals, hunting, and the use of animals in research), as well as unintentional acts that have harmful consequences. Cruel behaviors could be acts of omission as well as commission. Pain, suffering, and distress encompass emotional or psychological pain (e.g., teasing, bestiality), as well as physical pain. This analysis will focus on animal cruelty committed by individuals or small groups. It is this category of animal abuse that, much like the early research on wife or child abuse, has been explained almost exclusively using an individualistic, psychopathological perspective while ignoring social structural forces (Gelles, 1993). Just as with family violence, it is equally important to show how a sociological analysis can be applied to better explain this form of individual violence by humans against other animals.
Publication: Archives of Sexual BehaviorPublication Date: 01-DEC-03Format: Online - approximately 10184 wordsDelivery: Immediate Online AccessAuthor: Williams, Colin J. ; Weinberg, Martin S.
This article presents a study of 114 self-defined zoophile men who were researched primarily through the use of an on-line questionnaire. We describe how the participants acquired the identity label of zoophile, what it meant to them, and their relationships among themselves. Also examined are how they eroticized animals and how human and feral characteristics combined to form this object choice. Finally, participants' sexual profiles with animals and humans, and how the balance of animal and human desires creates different forms of zoophilia, are described. KEY WORDS: zoophilia; bestiality. Received June 24, 2002; revisions received November 25, 2002, and May, 23, 2003; accepted May 23, 2003 INTRODUCTION Sex between humans and animals is a relatively uncommon source of sexual outlet, usually thought to be confined to a particular age, locale, and gender. For example, Kinsey, Pomeroy, and Martin (1948) found the highest incidence among adolescent males raised on farms. Moreover, given the expansion of sexual opportunities over the last 30 years, collectively referred to as the "sexual revolution," sex with animals--often considered a substitute sexual activity--is thought to have become even less prevalent in the U.S. population (Hunt, 1974). Despite this, public awareness has increased with regard to the topic. For example, Matthews (1994), a man who had "married" his pony, wrote a book, The Horseman, in which he defended the fights of so-called "zoophiles," a recent identity label for persons who claim sexual-love relationships with animals. Publicity has been further generated by animal fights groups who are attacking zoophiles with the claim that any sexual contact between humans and animals per se constitutes cruelty to animals and should be punished (Beirne, 2000). For example, the Humane Society of the United States (2001) has initiated a "First Strike Campaign" that encourages the passing (or reintroduction) of laws against "bestiality." To add to the debate, the noted animal rights activist Singer (2001) has attacked the taboo against sex with animals on the website of Nerve Magazine. And, a Broadway play by Edward Albee called "The Goat," in which a married man falls in love with a goat and, inter alia, attends an animal lovers' therapy group, won the prestigious Tony Award for best play of 2002. The emergence of sex between humans and animals as a public issue is not confined to the United States. For example, a very accepting book, Dearest Pet by Dekkers (2000), was originally published in Dutch, and received national attention. In Britain, a documentary film on TV, "Hidden Love: Animal Passions," which focused on Missouri's zoophile community, was aired on national TV. (4) A British newspaper ("Beastly passions," 2000) did a long article that claimed that "Bestiality--or zoophilia, as its apologists prefer to call it--has never been more acceptable." This claim notes such themes in magazines, photographs, TV commercials, a book that was nominated for a serious literary prize, and a Home Office (2000) report, titled "Setting the Boundaries," which recommends reducing the penalties for sexual contacts between humans and animals. The interest shown by the public in human-animal sex is not paralleled among sex researchers. Other than the Kinsey et al. (1948) and Kinsey, Pomeroy, Martin, and Gebhard (1953) volumes, there is little information on the topic in the sex research literature (see Cornog & Perper, 1994; Walton, 2001). At the time we began the present research, a study by Miletski was underway as a doctoral dissertation for the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco (since published in 2002, and which will be compared with our findings in the Discussion section).
Morally, nonhumans are regarded as a great deal less important and valuable than all human beings, regardless of their respective capacities and interests of individuals concerned. This ‘lesser-than’ status has a devastating consequence that may serve to seriously harm the interests of human beings as well as (more obviously) nonhuman ones. This thesis seeks to demonstrate how ‘dehumanisation processes’ rely on a low moral regard for nonhuman life, expressed in acts of war, genocide, relations of gender and ‘race’, the commercial production of pornography, and other situations of human and nonhuman harm. Within an examination of the construction of the ‘species barrier’ and protective ‘rights’, the project also sets out to critically question whether the basic rights of many nonhuman animals can continue to be denied with any moral justification. It suggests that sociological analysis brings to issues vital understandings of the socially-constructed nature of much of what is regarded as the ‘just is’ of human-nonhuman relations; and points to its continuing usefulness in examining how societies may react to new moral ideas, often within complex systems of knowledge denial and evasion.
While several existing ASA sections may touch upon aspects of the interactions of humans and other animals occasionally and tangentially, none are adequate vehicles for serious investigation and development of the issues and question in this area. Nor do they provide a specific space in which a theoretical sociological framework on other animals can be collaboratively developed. The ASA section on Animals and Society will facilitate improved sociological inquiry into these issues.
Society and Animals
Brill Academic Publishers
1063-1119 (Print) 1568-5306 (Online)
Volume 10, Number 4 / December, 2002
Volume 37 Issue 1 Page 117-148, February 1999
To cite this article: PIERS BEIRNE (1999) FOR A NONSPECIESIST CRIMINOLOGY: ANIMAL ABUSE AS AN OBJECT OF STUDY* Criminology 37 (1), 117–148.
This article considers a variety of arguments about why theory and research on animal abuse should be developed by criminologists. These include, with more or less satisfaction, the status of animal abuse as (1) a signifier of actual or potential interhuman conflict, (2) an existing object of criminal law, (3) an item in the utilitarian calculus on the avoidance of pain and suffering, (4) a violation of rights, and (5) one of several oppressions identified by feminism as an interconnected whole. The article concludes that animal abuse is an important object of study for criminology not only sui generis but also because its presence may indicate or predict situations of interhuman violence.
Title: No longer the lonely species: a post-mead perspective on animals and sociology
Author(s): Olin E. Myers, Jr
Journal: International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy
Year: 2003 Volume: 23 Issue: 3 Page: 46 - 68
Publisher: Barmarick Publications
Abstract: Society’s relations to animals pose possible blind spots in sociological theory that may be revealed and illuminated by studying systems of human-animal interaction. By investigating whether and how animals enter into key processes that shape self and society we may determine the ways in which animals might be included in the core subject matter of sociology. An earlier discussion of the role of animals in sociology initiated by Weber is reviewed. Issues that debate raised about the extent of linguistically-mediated human-animal intersubjectivity are updated. It is in principle difficult to rule out animal languages, and some animals have acquired human language. But sociology may follow a more fecund empirical route by examining successful human-animal performances produced by enduring interspecies relationships. Following this route, this paper specifically argues that the human self should be seen to take root in the available mixed species community. To show this, the work of G.H. Mead is revisited and corrected in light of recent work on early human development, and conceptual analyses of language, the body, and the self. The formation of the self is not dependent on only linguistic exchanges; a nonverbal nonhuman other can contribute to the self-reflective sense of being a human self. Based on this reasoning, examples of studies of humans with wild and domestic animals illustrate the potential for a human-animal sociology.
Keywords: Human relations, Science, Sociology
Article Type: Research paper
Article URL: http://www.emeraldinsight.com/10.1108/01443330310790255
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What Should Sociology Do About Darwin? (Dissertation with heavy sociobiology emphasis)
The essays in this volume grew out of a conference held at Stanford University in April 1987 under the auspices of the Stanford Humanities Center. The subject was "Humans, Animals, Machines: Boundaries and Projections."
The conference organizers had two goals. First, we wanted to address those recent developments in biological and computer research—namely, sociobiologya nd artificial intelligence—that are not normally seen as falling in the domain of the humanities but that have reopened important issues about human nature and identity. By asking what it means to be human, these relatively new areas of research raise the question that is at the heart of the humanistic tradition, one with a long history. We believed such a question could best be addressed in an interdisciplinary forum bringing together humanities scholars with researchers from sociobiology and artificial intelligence, who, despite their overlapping concerns, largely remain isolated from one another. Second, we wanted to link related but usually separate discourses about humans and animals, on the ond hand, and humans and machines, on the other. We wished to explore some of the parallels and differences in these respective debates and see if they can help us understand why, in some cases, highly specialized and even esoteric research programs in sociobiology or artificial intelligence can become overriding visions that carry large intellectual, social, and political implications. We recognized both that this is a daunting task and that some limits had to be placed on the material to be covered.
We have divided this volume into several sections. It opens with a general statement by philosopher Bernard Williams on the range of problems encountered in attempting to define humanity in relation either or animals or machines. This is followed by sections on humans and
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animals and on humans and machines.
The study of animal-human relations within the social sciences is an increasingly important, vibrant and burgeoning field. The formation of the BSA Animal/Human Studies Group in June 2006 is therefore an important step towards addressing what Bryant (1979) has called the 'zoological connection', whereby sociologists need to recognise that people co-exist and interact not only with humans but with non-human animals too. For example, animals are increasingly utilised and involved in biotechnology and genomics; animal experimentation; the production and slaughter of food animals; companion animal-human type relationships and the therapeutic use of animals. Moreover, additional animal-related issues that have attracted attention by researchers are: the potential links between animal abuse and domestic violence; the nature of animal-animal interaction; potential links between women, nature and animals; bestiality; human-wildlife interactions; and human responses to companion animal death/euthanasia. Sociologists have much to offer this emerging area of study and are well placed to engage with the multifaceted, ambiguous and challenging nature of the animal-human interface in everyday life.
The BSA Animal/Human Studies Group will enable both current and future sociologists to put non-human animals on to the specialist and mainstream sociological research agenda, thus ensuring that animal-human studies becomes a viable and significant area of sociological study. References
Barbara Creed"Bestiality, Darwinism & Desire"
From King Kong to the recent Planet of the Apes, the cinema (mainstream and pornographic) has been drawn to tales and parables about the human-beast, the struggle to survive, the horrors of devolution and bestiality, the boundaries between human and simian, the universal fear of and attraction to the animal other. Darwinian theories of survival of the fittest, evolution and devolution, eugenics and the body have influenced a large number of films but very little has been written on the influence of Darwinism on the cinema. Why is the bestial body such a potent site within the history of cinematic representation? Why was the 'girl and the gorilla' genre so popular? What is horrifying and poetic about bestiality? How does the beast feel? This paper will explore the concept of bestiality in film and other cultural texts & the extent to which bestiality enables a remapping of relations between human and animal, self and other ?
(note to self: follow this up for wider ramifications re: Williams's legacy & cultural studies):
Gregory J. Seigworth is an Associate Professor in the Communication and Theatre Department at Millersville University. He has, most recently, co-edited a special issue of the journal Cultural Studies (2004) on “philosophies of everyday life” and, in 2000, co-edited an issue of the same journal focussed on the work of Deleuze and Guattari. Greg has previously published essays and articles in a variety of books and in such journals as Antithesis, Architectural Design, Cultural Studies, and Studies in Symbolic Interactionism. His most recent essay “One Paradigm Less” on Raymond Williams and Deleuze in cultural studies is coming out in 2006 in a book entitled New Cultural Studies: Adventures in Theory from Edinburgh University Press.
Email: Gregory.Seigworth (at) millersville.edu