Friday, June 5, 2015


The limit to anthropomorphism confuses me. This class has taught us that we shouldn't assume animals think and behave in the same way humans do. However, in readings such as the one about elephants, we are shown that animals are able to get PTSD and the reading on animal empathy and experimentation tells us that animals can get learned helplessness and depression. These diseases are generally considered human, even if it's only because humans are the ones who found them and labelled them, so isn't saying that animals get them too anthropomorphic? Many arguments are made that animals shouldn't be tested on or abused because they have feelings too, which I completely agree with, but I also think that applying feelings to animals is a form of anthropomorphism because it is applying something that happens to humans to animals. Although I get that not everything that humans and animals have in common were human traits first, I think anthropomorphism can be used in a positive way to help us understand animals based on what we know.

So Long & Thanks For All The Fish

A few nights ago I was watch The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy with some friends and the clip above is the opening scene of the movie. Although this song and opening monologue are meant to be satirical, it brought up a lot of ideas that we discussed in section regarding "intelligence", communication, and overall human and nonhuman animal interactions. The opening monologue states that humans were the third most intelligent species on the planet (even though they thought they were the most intelligent) behind dolphins who were the second most intelligent. This was an interesting concept because it was the first time I thought about how this movie was referring to intelligence in terms of  "human intelligence" and yet they were still classifying dolphins as more intelligent. Then the question of what if something like this were to actually happen popped into my head. Scientifically speaking dolphins do use more of their brains than humans do, so what if dolphins (or any other animals) knew of an impending catastrophe due to their intelligence or deeper connection with the world around us and tried to warn us but could not because of human ignorance and communication barriers that humans also neglect. This was such a new outlook on this scene that I am very happy this course enabled me to have.

Mice were #1 on the list because they're inter-dimensional scientists.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Luxury Eating?

Recently, I was watching a food program on the Travel channel. The show featured Anthony Bourdain, who is well known for going to different countries to display the culture and the food. I found it interesting that he said that begin vegan was a first world luxury, excluding those who followed religious practices of being vegan.
As I thought more about it, the more it made sense. It can be very difficult in poverty stricken countries to follow vegan practices as it can be expensive to buy meat and other food products. It can sometimes be required that you have to raise your own animals to provide meat and milk, and grow your own vegetables. My parents grew up very poor in Mexico and ate what they were able to grow on their ranch. My mom always said they were lucky to at least have cows to drink milk. 
It's interesting how much the perspective changes from country to country. 
People fight for the rights of animals, but sometimes eating/drinking something from them can be a means to survival. I can't even imagine a perfect world where people existed without harming animals and surviving mainly off foods grown from the Earth. It sounds impractical. The only way I could see this happening would be if we shared the wealth and technological advances (farming) with the rest of the world, but we would also have to stop prejudice and war to be able to share. 
How do you imagine the perfect world between humans and animals? Some people say that eating meat is a luxury, do you believe that or that vegan/healthy is a luxury? 

Aunts Who Work With Animals/Meat

When I went home for Memorial Day weekend, a lot of my aunts were visiting from out of town. I recalled at a family gathering that two of my aunt's happen to work in the meat packing industry, and are in close proximity of the animals that are killed to eventually become the meat we eat. I decided to ask them about it and their thoughts on the entire ordeal. One of them chops off the feet of the chicken, while the other watches the pigs. They both work in different states.
I shared with them what I've learned since being in this class, and how over time the human views of animals have changed greatly. However, the response I received was not what I expected. My aunts didn't seem bothered by the animals at all.
It was interesting how little emotion was put into their work. I had to remember that my aunts chose to have these jobs because of the hours and the benefits. Also, that my family comes from another country where it was rare to eat meat, and when you did, it was a big (usually happy) deal.
We are always blaming the people that work in these industries, but in reality we don't know their backgrounds. I wonder how much the perspective changes whether you were born here or in another country, or if your not necessarily from a stable economic background.

In preparation for my favorite TV show..

One of my favorite television shows, Hannibal, starts a new season tonight. I've been waiting excitedly for it ever since the second season ended last year, and in preparation for it, I started to reminisce on all of past events in the show. It's about a criminal profiler named Will Graham who is both gifted and burdened with the ability to empathize to an extreme extent with killers he is trying to catch. In the process of tracking down one killer, he meets psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter, who himself is a brilliant and elusive serial killer and who has a tendency to eat his victims. The show is full of lots of animal imagery, from using stags to shrikes to dogs to convey its heavy symbolism.
In my reminiscing, I was reminded of the repeated use of representing Hannibal as a Wendigo. A Wendigo is a half-man, half-beast creature of legend that is known for its insatiable appetite for human flesh. In Algonquian legend, the Wendigo was once a man who commited some sin (usually cannibalism) and was therefore punished for it by becoming a monster. They are almost like werewolves in that they have no control over being changed into a beast (in most legends).
This made me wonder on the representation of these half-man, half-beast creatures in our culture. The most famous would of course be werewolves, but why do we have such a fascination with such beings? Does it say something about ourselves and our society, that we find being transformed into (what many would consider) a monster so intriguing?
I'm not so sure, but for now I'll sit back and enjoy as the image of a Wendigo version of Hannibal Lecter haunts the screen.

(Non-Human) Animal Awareness

Ever since we talked about Elizabeth Costello I could not take my mind off of the idea of how we humans lack sympathy towards animals. I’ll admit, when I took the Elizabeth Costello challenge, I forgot within two days that I was supposed to be thinking about Elizabeth Costello’s ideas. After the we talked about the challenge, I could not stop thinking about her ideas. Last Wednesday I went to the Southern California for my sister’s high school graduation. Since it’s late May, most of my old high school friends are coming back from their respective universities and came back home for the summer. I took this opportunity to have a discussion about various topics with my friends. Eventually, we talked about the music industry and how people will do anything in their power to gain what they want. I told my friends about Elizabeth Costello and how she felt unsafe in a world where people will kill and eat (non-human) animals, creatures with feelings and emotions, without any remorse. My friends are very open to discussion and they had comments like “wow, I’ve never thought about that” or “that is so true”. Before I knew it, my friends were talking about how they felt a little unsafe now, because only one can imagine what humans will do in order to gain what they want without taking into account that most things that are living have a consciousness. This class has opened my eyes to different perspective that I would never imagine thinking about, and that’s the best thing I’ve gotten from this course. I am now aware of these issues revolving (non-human) animals and I feel like the best thing I have taken from this course is that people need to be aware of the things that happen to animals.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

I recently watched Boxtrolls and it reminded me a lot of this class.  It uses the idea of human hierarchy to communicate to viewers how humans can mistreat and other beings they do not understand.  Boxtrolls in this movie are comparable to animals.  Humans mistreat the trolls by forcing them to work in a factory.  They are manipulated for personal gain just as humans use animals.  This movie was an effective way to communicate an imbalance in the relationship between humans and creatures.  It was also super fun and entertaining(:

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Animal Testing.

It always feels that animal testing and "research" is always spoken about more of the topic in health, but I came across this picture and realized that many animals are always being harmed for humans personal appearance. It makes no sense to cause harm these animals, but what makes even less sense is that we are not paying attention to the fact that if these animals are being harmed but the products meant for our faces what makes anyone think that it would harm us? It may not be right away but there is something wrong that is going on with make up if animals are being hurt this way and eventually humans maybe hurt the same way.

 Around my first year of college a wrote a paper against animal experimentation, I remember reading that there may not be much positive feedback on results because animals and humans are similar but still different. For things to be given the best results testing would need to be done on humans, if they know it's not right for humans that should be a sign it isn't correct to harm these animals.

" You can't replace a dog like that, "

I was browsing through social media when I came across this. It's heart breaking to see that animals are being left in someone else's care and paid yet the amount of attention being given to them is still far to little. The article explains that the person left the dog unattended in a heating cage to go to a graduation, it's understandable that an event like that is very important but the life of this animal is very important as well. It may have been an "accident" but its clear that an animal is not suppose to be left alone in a cage like that, even if it was set to turn off soon someone else should had been there to make sure it did. This family is hurting the loss of a family member, they went to Petco from what it seems like many years and the amount of trust that has been lost is painful. It is very important to realize where you are leaving your loved pets. In whose care are you leaving them and if you truly believe the person is trustworthy because you may trust someone yet something that could definitely been avoided happens and it's very hard to come back from that.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Facts About SeaWorld's Killer Whales | SeaWorld®

I've been seeing this commercial on TV lately. The SeaWorld corporation has made this commercial after the continuous backlash it has received in the recent years. I have a hard time personally understanding how these people working at SeaWorld with the animals on a daily basis can make these claims for the sake of a corporation at the animals' expense. I am absolutely not a fan of captivity. I used to love SeaWorld when I was younger and when I didn't understand what was really happening. But after reading facts of actual orca whales in the wild and seeing documentaries such as Blackfish and Lolita, I realized the impact of captivity on these highly intelligent animals. Seeing these people that work at SeaWorld make claims such as "our whales live as long as the whales that live in the wild" and that they "wouldn't work there if they didn't have the highest standard of animal care" is unnerving to watch. I'm not sure what everyone else's take is on captivity but I honestly find it unfair. It isn't right and it should not be justifiable. That's just my opinion.


Madagascar is a children's animated film. It centers around a lion, a zebra, a hippopotamus, and a giraffe. The film starts off with the main characters living in a New York Zoo. They are unexpectedly  shipped to Africa but along the way are shipwrecked in Madagascar. In this first movie, the lion is forcing his hunting instincts away and they are all wishing they were back at the zoo. In the second movie, while trying to leave Madagascar, they crash in Africa. There they meet more of their kind and the film ends with them living happily in Africa. All seems fine until the the third movie comes along. Here, they end up in Monte Carlo searching for the penguins in order to persuade them to leave for New York. However, their plans are interrupted by animal control who is trying to catch them. This begins a chase leading the animals to a traveling circus who take them in. By the end they realize they don't want to be trapped in cages at the zoo... but rather be in the circus.

This seems like such an innocent children's movie, but the message it's sending out is the complete opposite of what we are trying to unlearn. The animals are being depicted of actually being happy while captive in zoos and performing tricks for the entertainment of humans.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Luiz Antonio Why He Doesn't Want to Eat Octopus

Has anyone seen this video? Its super cute. I love seeing the genuine hearts of such innocent minds. It seems his intelligence is far beyond most children his age and he's even making many adults question their eating habits. Hope to see more kids spread positivity about vegetarianism!


Saturday, May 30, 2015

Does It Go Both Ways?

Humans often call animals brutes and many other demeaning names because we think we are smarter and better than them. Something I often wonder is if all these animals who we think are not as "intelligent" as us see us the same way. Does a bird think we are idiots for not being able to fly? Does a dog think we're freaks for walking on two legs all the time? Just how Montaigne said, "When I am playing with my cat, who knows whether she have more sport in dallying with me than I have in gaming with her?"

Thursday, May 28, 2015

As I science major, I have seen this image in some of classes about ethics and science. I never really thought about it much. I would just think "oh she's a cute child" and " yuck, a rodent". Of course we would all rather want to see the child live, and placing a picture of a child next to a picture of a "pest" makes us feel less guilty about animal testing. However, what if the picture of the rat was replaced by a picture of a cute baby monkey? Would that change the message the image is trying to convey?

Wednesday, May 27, 2015


I love watching people's dogs when they need me to. A lot of my friends and family know I'm always willing to help them out with their pets if they need me. This past weekend I took a trip to the Dog Beach in Santa Cruz because I was watching my boss' dog Cal. She went away for the weekend and asked me to 'dog sit.' I usually never question the notion of dog sitting but when I read James A. Serpell's "Anthropomorphism and Anthropomorphism Selection" I wanted to examine this concept. He talked about the relationship between pet keeping and anthropomorphism. Is dog sitting the perfect example of anthropomorphism? In what ways? Dog sitting is like baby sitting. You have to make sure the creature you are taking care of is fed, bathed, well rested, and entertained. Taking a baby out for a walk in their stroller is similar to taking a dog on a walk with their leash strapped on. I wanted to ask how you guys felt about the concept of dog sitting. Do you think dogs or any pets need to be with a human companion at all times to gain the basic necessities? Even for one night? Or do you feel as if they can fend on their own?  Is dog sitting a domesticated process in its self?

Cricket Consciousness

The other day I was trying to feed my gecko when I ran into some problems. Normally it's super easy, I keep the crickets in a cricket pen and the pen has these black tubes that the crickets naturally want to go into. I usually just take the black tube out knock it against the wall of the terrarium and they fall out... boom gecko fed. But the other day none of the crickets were in the pen so I was decided I'd have to get some crickets out with my hands... They were all super scared, naturally, and then i noticed this one little cricket that was missing a leg frantically limp running away looking super helpless. Then one of the larger crickets in the pen got on top of the handicapped cricket and was protecting him! It made me think about when we discussed consciousness earlier in the quarter and made me really believe that all animals including insects want to live just as much as we do.


Todays section H, when going over Grandin's articles, it seems like people get over-optimistic, especially when criticizing Grandin and her work.  While everyone will have differing opinions on the slaughter house industry, Grandin is working with what she is given.  It is frequently true that not one person can change an entire industry, as we have seen repeatedly throughout history, but we can't discount efforts to improve current conditions.
I heard criticisms of Grandin's work, which is trying to improve the last moments of a cows life before slaughter.  I don't think it's realistic to criticize Grandin because she contributes to the slaughter of animals or the like, because without her work the entire industry would be worse for cows.  While we can continue to strive for the reduction of the slaughter industry, or any other industry with major moral problems, we can't be so idealistic to only care about the abolition of the entire industry.  It takes gradual steps to improve overall conditions, many steps of which Grandin has taken.  We probably won't see the abolition of the slaughter industry in our lifetime.  Or maybe even our children's lifetime.  But we can take steps to improve it, and that should be our goal.


An Interesting article on "understanding" animals

This particular article caught my attention because it goes into somewhat scientific details on examining chimpanzees. It also somewhat anthropomorphizes the chimpanzees in assuming that the researchers know what they are thinking, and why they are doing what they do. However, the assessments are very detailed and strive to examine what the chimpanzee may really truly be feeling or thinking.

Monday, May 25, 2015

"Ancient Wolf DNA Could Solve Dog Origin Mystery"

This article reminded me of the short story we read a while back, "The Dog and the Wolf". the story has the dog and wolf act like family, "cousins" to be more specific. and this article goes deeper into the history of the relationship between these two creatures.

The Post Human that Therefore I am (My Story)

I woke up and the room was dark. I got up and decided that I was hungry so I had to go find food. as I left the confinements in which I awoke to, I went off on  my search for something to eat. I stumbled upon a place where humans come out with food, I assumed it was food since they were eating it. I entered and then someone asked me for an "ID" the only thing I had on me was a little, square, flat object so I gave them that. They let me through and I saw different types of food. I went to get a "bowl" as the others were calling it and served these little colorful rings that i was suppose to add milk to. It was simple but also satisfying. ( I went to go eat cereal)

The Elizabeth Costello Challenge (My Experience)

It was just an hour or so after section, when i decided to go eat lunch at the dining hall. the plate i decided on was a piece of steak with some broccoli and rice on the side. I was happily eating the vegetable when i decided to cut a piece of the meat on my plate, and as I am carving, it suddenly hits me that what I'm was once alive! it was a living creature the same as me and what I am stabbing with my fork is in fact dead animal flesh, the same substance that I am made of. then I started imagining that i t is my flesh on the plate and after that I lost my appetite as i got a sense of cannibalism and for the next two weeks, I could't go near stations that held the same flesh that I wear everyday, let alone seeing it on plates ready to serve. I felt sick.


Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, Snoopy the Dog.... Have you ever wondered why people create cartoon characters of humanized animals. I mean, they walk on two legs, they wear clothes, and they even speak the human language. If these characters act "human", then why don't animators simply make them humans? This only shows that people can only relate with animals based on cartoons they see. they also ruin the actual image of the animal. Mickey Mouse for an example is a character loved world wide by all ages, he is a mouse. A mouse is an animal that most humans try to stay away from and yet Mickey gathers fans from all around, different from an actual mouse. How is it that people love this mouse, but not the actual creature he is based on?

Animals and Language

Do animals have a language? Many humans wonder and ponder over this question for many years. Humans question animals, simply because most wild life do not "speak" or "understand" the human language. There are people who believe animals don't have voices, period. But doesn't the cow say "moo"? or the cat say "meow"? If animals don't have voices, then how can people categorize the sounds that non humans make and what humans don't understand. Just because they tend to make a specific sound, does that mean they have no language? Humans say animals don't understand humans, but that is quite questionable.
When you are pain, you whimper, yelp or even cry. so do animals, they use the same language we do when we are suffering. Yet animals are ignored simply because they don't specifically yell out an "ouch!"

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Increasing Animal Rights Awareness

Animal rights awareness has been increasing in America. With the help of film and news stories, it seems that more Americans have been listening as statistics have been increasing in favor of the animal rights movement. If more celebrities and social media would go on board, as this seems to be the most effective way in our current era, then we will be a step closer to helping solve this issue.

D.H. Lawrence and the Courage To Be a Creature

Letter from D.H. Lawrence to Bertrand Russell, 1916

This letter is so much fun! D.H Lawrence tells (philosopher and mathematician) Bertrand Russell to come live near him, "but not if you are going to be a thinker and a worker, only if you are going to be a creature, an infant …"

He ends his letter with his love and the following pronouncement:

"Stop working and being an ego, & have the courage to be a creature."

Some questions you might consider:

Is this a post humanist perspective? How so?

How do you think this letter aligns with Elizabeth Costello's (and/or Coetzee's) discussion about the difference between philosophical and poetic discourse on the subject of other animals?

Does anything Lawrence says in this letter give you new insight into "The Snake" or "Man and Bat"?

the post human that therefore i am

Narrate a story (make one up or take an anecdote from your daily life) where you perform a human/animal reversal or human/animal blurring, similar to the ones we've been reading this week. Estrange yourself from your own subject position by trying to narrate your behavior from the perspective of a nonhuman being with whom you might interact.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Speaking Elephants

"How To Speak Elephant"

This article reminds me of the questions Theo posed in a post from a few weeks ago. She wondered if it would be an anthropomorphic gesture to think that a whale who had just been released from ensnarement in a net might have been thanking human rescuers when he or she gently nudged each one on the chest before swimming away.

Legalized Sentience for all New Zealand Animals

"Animals are now legally recognised as 'sentient' beings in New Zealand"

The legal status of nonhuman animals living in New Zealand has been changed to "sentient" beings.  In the U.S., as we've discussed, nonhuman animals have the legal status of "things"––which may be changing soon for two chimpanzees (NY Hearing on May 27th).

I'm hoping there will be a mass nonhuman animal exodus to NZ very soon. Have a look at this short article to read what the change in legal status will mean for nonhuman animals.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Elizabeth Costello Challenge

At the end of our section discussions today, I suggested that we take what I want to call "The Elizabeth Costello Challenge." Let's try seeing how much we can alienate our families and peers by…no no no that's not it. I want to read Costello's appeal to the limitless potential of the sympathetic imagination as a challenge to our everyday thinking and living. A challenge is both an invitation to take part in a contest of sorts and also an investigation into the veracity of a proposition, with an emphasis on proof. 

What happens if for one week we test out the proposition that "there is no limit to the extent to which we can think ourselves into the being of another"? What if we go one step further and take as our guiding hypothesis for the week that "There are no bounds to the sympathetic imagination" (Coetzee 35)? Like Coetzee and his character Elizabeth Costello, I'm not making any programmatic prescriptions or proscriptions, dietary or otherwise––though if we take Costello seriously then eating other animals who are quietly and constantly tortured in production facilities, fattening feedlots, and abattoirs across the country becomes a criminal act (as does our tacit daily acceptance that these prison and death farms operate at all). Coetzee makes sure to tell us though that Costello herself wears leather. Costello divulges the suffering provenance of her shoes and purse to one of the professors at the dinner, seemingly rejecting his attempt to praise the purity of her moral convictions.  What's important here, I think, is that we are all complicit––and that a "pure" position (whatever that would be) is likely impossible––and at least in this text quite beside the point. 

As often as you can remember––and keep reminding yourself––whatever you're doing and whomever you are doing it with, challenge your sympathetic imagination to think yourself into the beings around you, specifically into the lives of nonhuman animals. Please post reflections of your experiences as the week goes by, including further discussion of Coetzee's text or any of the responses, a revelation, an anecdote, a question, a difficulty, a conversation with friends, descriptions of people around you, research or links about production facilities and the lives of others animals––whatever you do, eat or don't eat, generally just narrate what happens as you take the Elizabeth Costello Challenge. You might even for a day play at being Elizabeth Costello, wear that mask, think yourself into that character. There are no right answers or posts here––a day in your sympathetic imagination will be different from a day in mine––and that's, I hope, what will make this interactive, worthwhile, and fun.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Black Beauty Rewrite (5/6/15)

Black Beauty p. 27

"He stood by, patting and stroking me whilst I was eating, and seeing the clots of blood on my side he seemed vexed by the way he was shaking his head. He growled out something about a vicious brute. Then he led me into my box, took off the saddle and briddle with his own hands and tied me up; then a pail of warm water appeared after the command of the old master's voice."

In this passage, Ginger tells Black Beauty about her experience with Samson and about the time he had overworked her. Luckily, her old master came to the rescue when he finds her under an oak tree and takes her back to the stable.

To make the passage less of a human perspective, Theo, Glen, and I removed all of the dialogue and focused more on the visuals Ginger would've seen or felt. For example, the old master's hand gestures and touch could express how he felt towards her. And the tone of his voice would also give away the emotion he felt.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Last quarter I took a class in which I learned about many ancient eastern civilizations around Europe and Asia. One particular civilization I was drawn to throughout the course was the Minoan civilization. The Minoan people lived on the island of Crete in around 3700 BCE. They were a very peaceful people with a culture rooted in ritual and worship. However they did not worship mythological entities, rather they had a sort of religious relationship with the earth and nature: trees, boulders, animals, grains. Something I found particularly interesting is that  while their rituals often revolved around plants and animals, their most important and prominent ritual did not involve animal sacrifice, as has been historically customary in many ancient cultures; instead, it involved animal praise through a mutual human-animal interaction. The Minoans has a very special relationship with bulls. They revered them and respected their power and strength. They never killed or hunted them for food, as they were sacred to the culture. They constructed a palace centered around a large plaza solely for the bull ritual, adorned with paintings of bulls. During the ritual, many would gather to watch a performer dance with a bull. In this act of worship, the partaker would perform acrobatic moves, balancing on the bull's horns and leaping over under and around it. This Minoans praised the bulls because they respected their power courage and valiance and strove to emulate these qualities as a society. I think this is a very special relationship in that these people sought harmony with the rest of nature rather than creating distance from it, and they praised it for all it provided them with. To my knowledge (correct me if I'm wrong) western culture, today and historically, does not seem to have any human-animal relationships/ traditions of this nature. It may be interesting to ponder why that is, and why western societies seem to have created a distance between themselves and the rest of nature.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Hello! So for anyone who saw that psychedelic Dumbo (1941) scene in class today, and wanted to see more I have just the video for you! After watching it I remembered in a Winnie the Pooh episode from 1968 (I have attached the video). In the scene Pooh had a nightmare about heffalumps and woozles, which resemble elephants and weasels. The likeness of elephants in the two cartoons is striking. Not simply because of the similarity in the way the cartoons are drawn, the two films did come from the same studio, but in animator’s treatment of the elephant figures. Particularly interesting was the way in both films elephant figures morph: their trunks turning into musical instruments, evolving into non-elephant shapes and back, etc. There are times when these images seem frightening (a neon yellow elephant with cutout-eyes that continue into the empty black background) and others where the elephants look like harmless, stuffed animals (a pink elephant with pearls, playing a harp made from her trunk and honey). Another similarity is that characters of each film experience these musical visions when in dream-like states. From this I have few questions: Why elephants (in Dumbo I realize that the protagonist is an elephant, but why an elephant in Winnie the Pooh?)? Are the animators delivering a message on how we should consider elephants, as either scary and mystical, or harmless objects? Why was the “Pink Elephants on Parade” scene mimicked in the Winnie the Pooh episode? Are the scenes nightmares for the protagonists? And if so is it a way for young children to identify with the cartoon characters' experiences? Was it just a successful scene, or is there something more to it? Not too sure, either way the cartoons are cool to watch! 
Black Beauty discussion:

My group discussed the passage when Captain loses his "master" in the war.  This was my groups interpretation of the passage for the in section activity.

"I found myself surrounded by many men, many houses, and loud noises.  Suddenly, my master fell from on top of me.  I was full with fear.  So many things were going on around me.  I was full with fear because I had no idea what was going on.  I had no direction and this was not the place to just sit here in place.  Horses and their masters were screaming and yelling to the left and right of me.  Suddenly, I had men begin to hit me with these sharp and piercing objects and my companion horse that stood next to me had dropped to the ground.   His rider then with no hesitation hopped on my back and suddenly, I was galloping again.  Instantly after, other horses and their masters were running towards me with no fear.  I found it hard to keep focus.  Where was my master?"

In Regards to Captain

As we examined Black Beauty today, we spent a little time discussing horses as a key component of human history, both as subjects and creators. In particular, horses in battle represent a the very intersection of the two. In such events, horses in combat are subject to being utility for human benefit but they also contribute to the successes of human battles and as a result, human history. I must also suggest that, if you are interested, War Horse is a wonderful film that captures both the human perspective of combat with horses and also the journey and feeling of the horse through war. Although certainly a war film, it does great justice to the horse's experience in war and even brings sympathy from the viewer about the animal treatment in war time.

The movie is an adaptation of a book called War Horse by Michael Morpugo and is directed by Steven Spielberg.
In today's section at the end of class we discussed Bentham and Spigels writings. I found it very interesting to see their points of view and more specifically Spigels writing. I really like the way she brought in the texts and how the text from Virgina:
"I am sure they could never become happier
people than I find here...No tribe of people
has ever passed from barbarism to
civilization whose progress has been
more secure from harm, more genial
to their character, or better supplied with
mild and beneficent guardianship, adapted to 
the actual state of their intellectual feebleness,
than the Negros of Swallow Barn. And from what
I can gather, it is pretty much the same on the
other estates in this region"
I would like to see either your opinion, or maybe, why you see people justifying slavery as a benefit. I think the only reason people justify it is, in a similar way that Samantha said, is that we don't want to be apart of it and simply turn a blind eye to it. What are your thoughts?
This was our in-class activity regarding to different passages in black beauty. This specific passage was the very last page on chapter 26, where Black Beauty is narrating after his fall from the pain of having to gallop through the stone ridden earthen floor. This is my interpretation of the excerpt without Black Beauty`s compassionate thoughts towards the injured, human rider.

Black Beauty:
 "Pain. Such horrible pain. The searing, the burning, it is too great.
I am trying to hold on, I am trying, I AM TRYING! I cant!
I hit the floor upon my knees, distracting me from the unbearable pain of the hooves atop the rough stone.
In quick fashion, I limp to the stone free road.
I stand their, with a slight wilt in stance, suffering in my silent pain, as horses do.
I stood listening to the night, its calm and silence reminding me of a time before pain, before bad people.
I looked up at the clear night sky, pondering the nights like these I spent with my mother, in the green breezy meadow."

Monday, May 4, 2015

Can Animals Commit Murder?

Recently, I had a dream that involved a murder scene where the suspects in question were my younger sister and a medium sized yellow dog. In the dream, the concern was whether or not the police could believe that a dog could have committed murder and seemed certain that it was my sister who had murdered the man because of their inability to see the dog as having the intelligence or capability of killing a human being. This dream confused me greatly but also reminded me of the article we read in week 4, Holsinger's "Of Pigs and Parchment." This article was the one discussing a time when animals were put on trial and executed for crimes they committed against the people and it brings up the issue of whether or not animals should be given the rights that would allow them to also have to pay for crimes that they may commit. In my dream this was debated thoroughly as the decision was placed on if the dog was to be placed under the same expectations of humans to commit murder and pay for the crime. Should animals have the same rights as humans and if so, should they have to also pay for crimes that they commit? Do animals have the capacity to understand laws like murder?

Human + "Obligations" = Machine

I have been thinking a lot about Descartes viewing animals as machines and the more I think about it the more implausible it seems. If animals are seen as machine, then what are we? I feel that people act much more like machines than any animal does. We are very much driven by time and routine. We leave the house at the same time everyday to get to class or work. We do things step by step in our everyday life. Shampoo goes before conditioner, etc. I started working at a restaurant and that is also very formulaic. Once you ask the customer the same set of questions, walk them to the table, put the menus down, and go grab them water and tell them "a server will be right with you". Animals on the other hand are on no set schedule. They don't check the time every few minutes to make sure their day is on track and they are not going to be late for the next place they have to be, they just do.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Human importance?

As we were watching the Ted Talk video in class today, I started to ponder over a few important questions. What important roles do humans play in nature? If humans did not exist would the planet still be able to survive?  This thought came into my head as Klein was talking about in the video that humans try to present the idea of killing off species that are "useless" such as crows. Well that got me thinking. If crows are considered useless then aren't humans useless as well? What important role do we actual play in nature? We as humans only degrade and pollute this earth anyways. So many animals provide humans support to live, and all we do as humans is make it difficult for species to be themselves and live as they were made to. One important example of an animal we often neglect is the bee. Bees provide us with honey and also pollinate flowers. Without them humans would probably have a difficult time surviving. We often kill bees in our homes or anywhere we think they do no belong simply because we are afraid of what they are capable of, or even sometimes because society has programmed us to believe that all insects are gross and useless. So the real question is why don't we find our real importance, and instead of being useless be useful to nature?


I work as a groundskeeper and deal with a variety of animals in a variety of different ways. One thing that always sat on my conscious was gophers (insert Caddyshack joke here). I, personally, have no problem with gophers. However outlined in my job description I am to "remove" gophers from any landscaped areas. So we poison them. We put little food pellets laced with coagulants (they thicken your blood) in their gopher holes. The poison kills them if they eat it for more than 3 days in a row. My guess is that it is slow and extremely painful, but I don't know. Up until the early 2000s, my job used a poison that would kill them much faster. One side effect of THAT poison was the the gophers would go crazy, run up out of their burrows and die out in the open. Hawks, eagles, and falcons would then eat the poisoned gopher and then die themselves. While I value the life of a hawk over the life of a gopher on an ecology scale, what gets me is this...That I make these little critters suffer greatly for good of another species. Is it that hawks are more ecologically important than gophers? They are important for pest control especially here in Santa Cruz. They also have a visual aesthetic that people (or at least me) associate with competency, fierceness and bravery. So is it another example of anthropomorphism? Sacrifice-the-lowly-gopher-digger-of-holes-for-the-noble-king-of-the-sky kinda thing?

One more thing. Part of my morning routine is checking the dumpsters to see if there are any raccoons trapped inside. Many would consider the raccoon as much of a pest as a my experience they are just as destructive to the garden as the gophers are...BUT NO ONE ASKS ME TO POISON THEM. It's inconsistent and it bothers me.


No judgments please I know I'm a gopher killer, no need to rub it in.

- Alex Verdoia

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Animals in children's literature

          In section we had briefly discussed the prevalence of animals as characters in children's books and what purpose they serve. Obviously children understand that animals cannot speak, yet having animals talk in a story is quite popular. In many fables such as the tortoise and the hare, animals are used to convey a particular moral or underlying truth. One reason why many authors use animals to relate to children is because children and animals are actually very much alike. They're both often curious, naive, and fascinated by the external world. However, it's also interesting to consider that animals can be anthropomorphized in powerful, personal, or painful stories, thus putting the reader at an emotional distance from the message the writer is conveying, since it is only an animal going through the experience.
          I found this article intriguing because the author describes how animals are used as devices in literature to act out and create scenarios that humans experience, thus making the message more identifiable to the reader. One quote from the text, and what I believe to be the author's thesis is: "The intellectual and emotional distance that the animals' role-playing allows children and their mentoring adults grants space in which to become reflective and critical concerning life problems and life choices." I agree with this idea because without simplifying issues of complex cultural significance, children would not be able to gain a firm grasp on many social and moral truths.

This is an article which I found that discusses the relationship humans have had with animals throughout history.  In Mackenzie Cooley's new exhibit located at Stanford university has a large collection of multiple books in order to show and make more people aware of our historical relationship to animals through rare books.
This exhibit is open now through the 22 of august and if anyone has a chance to go see it I think it would be very interesting and directly is connected to this class. It discusses the human races dependence on animals and the products we have created out of bodies of different animals.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The King and His Loyal Beast

This is a short clip that highlights and explains the Oxytocin hormonal link between the ever growing pet-owner relationship, especially involving dogs.  After finding and listening to this clip, I thought of a confounding question in connection with the short story "Bisclavret".
As we know, in the story "Bisclavret" the main protagonist reveals to his lover that he transforms into a werewolf.  Rather unexpectedly, she turns against Bisclavret and forces him to retreat into the forest as a wild beast. One day the King and his hunting party came across Bisclavret in his beastly form.

"He took hold of his stirrup and kissed his foot and his leg. The king saw him and was filled with dread. He summoned all his companions. 'Lords,' he said, 'come forward! See the marvelous way this beast humbles itself before me! It has the intelligence of a human and is pleading for mercy."( pg. 70)

I want to explore how this new research complicates the intricate meaning between sovereign owner and loyal pet? Has these findings changed or challenged the true fidelity of the parallel relationship between the King and Bisclavret? The clip explores how the increase in Oxytocin hormone levels correlates to bonding between Dog and owner. The research specifically highlights how these findings do not apply to wolves.  In the context of the story, partnered with the NPR clip, what do you think this implies about domestication? Was Bisclavret a true domesticated pet in the sense of how we define domestic today? If so, was he transformed through necessity of safety? What do you think the King`s statement about Bisclavret and his show of loyalty, reveal about the relationship between loyalty and intelligence?


          As we briefly discussed in section Wednesday morning, there are lawyers and scholars arguing for the freedom of animals and their writ of habeas corpus. This New York Times article discusses Leo and Hercules, two lab chimpanzees at Stony Brook University, who are in trial for getting their writ of habeas corpus. The chimpanzee’s defense team is the Nonhuman Rights Project. They are arguing that the chips are “legal persons” with the right to “bodily liberty”.  The article states that the university chose not to disclose the purpose for possessing the chimpanzees. Later on the article states that those against animal rights are against this trial and believe that “animals do not have legal rights any more than they have legal responsibilities”. Legal experts argue that habeas corpus should be available to test the capacity of nonhuman animals.

         After reading this article, I noticed some of the language is human centered. Certain arguments are concentrated on whether or not it benefits us as humans rather than benefitting the individual chimpanzee. After reading this article, do you think the argument for the freedom of Leo and Hercules is human centered, or is it in the best interest of the chimpanzees?

Crap Traps and a Grateful Whale?

<iframe width="600" height="130" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" src="//"></iframe>

Hello all! I'd like to share a podcast, “Animal Minds” (Season 7, Episode 1) from WNYC’s Radiolab. If you have time to listen it’s a super interesting episode. If you do not have time I’ll give a brief rundown. There are a few stories in the podcast, all of them interesting. The one I am going to talk/ask about is the whale story beginning at around (4:00). A group of divers gets a call that a humpback whale is tangled in crab buoys and traps. On the scene they find fishing devices completely wrapped around the wale, dragging her down, inhibiting her mobility, and impairing her breathing. The divers work for hours, sawing away at the ropes, until they finally unbind the whale. She disappears for a moment, and then barrels back to the divers. As she approaches, one diver thinks she will ram into him, but instead she nudges the diver on the chest several times. She continues to each diver present, looking each in the eyes, letting the divers touch her, as she nudges them. The divers “leave the whale” as the whale does not want to leave them. The team thinks she came back to thank each diver, and even the boats!

What do you think is going on here? Is the whale saying thank you? Are we even able to tell what is going on with this individual? Is this an example of humans using a whale to elevate their sense of importance? Is it as Animal Psychologist Clive Wynne says: that attributing this reaction to the whale is demeaning her by saying that all animals in the world can only have human emotions? Or is it an instance of authentic connection between human and whale? For me, as a listener, I want there to be a communion between these creatures. I want it to be an instance of the removal of the barrier of language; so true trans-species communication can ensue. But I am inclined to agree with Wynne, what we “don’t speak whale” and cannot truly know what is happening in the whale's mind (also, is attributing a mind to the whale human-centric?).

If the whale is not saying thank you, maybe establishing a connection (even in human terms) can be a benevolent action in our dealings with other animals. Something not addressed in the podcast, but that is a striking part of the story, is the human implication in the whale’s entanglement. If we humans see our fishing activity as detrimental to whales, and if we see whales as having human-like emotions, we may be motivated to stop polluting the whale’s habitat. In this way I think something positive can come from this anthropomorphizing. That said I am sure there are arguments to the contrary! What do you think?

Thursday, April 9, 2015

We Unname Them

Really lovely sitting down and talking with all of you on Wednesday morning. I'm posting the thread I mentioned in our first section, following Ursula LeGuin's thought experiment in "She Unnames Them."

For the week let's see what happens if as we go about our individual Santa Cruz lives, every time we encounter a non-human animal (alive or dead) we unname them––or take away the "generic appellations 'poodle,' 'parrot,' 'dog,' or 'bird,' and all the Linnaean qualifiers that…[have] trailed behind them for two hundred years like tin cans tied to a tail." Jot down when possible what language you replace the name with and maybe some quick thoughts about how/if this changes your experience or encounter. Feel free to post some of these as they transpire and toward the end of the weekend it would be wonderful if some of us posted some reflections/impressions/ideas/feelings about the process.

Here we go….."[We can] not chatter away as…[we] used to do, taking it all for granted. [Our] words must be as slow, as new, as single, as tentative as the steps…[we] took going down the path away from the house [of human exceptionalism], between the dark-branched, tall dancers motionless against the winter shining."