Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Immortal Souls of Animals

I found it interesting that in the readings for this week, many of the scholars whose work we are studying seemed mostly concerned with whether or not animals possessed reason, but did not seem to think that animals possessed immortal souls in the same way that humans do. In fact, it didn't seem as though they had even given the idea much consideration. It is understandable that in the Western world scholars of that time period would not consider the possibility of animals having souls and an afterlife due to the pervading influence of Christianity (and the creation story in Genesis), and much of Eastern thought pertaining to nature is also heavily influenced by human-centric spiritual beliefs. After doing some research on the internet I came across an umbrella term, "Animism", which refers to a broad spectrum of spiritual beliefs that share the common factor of attributing a soul to things that aren't human; this includes animals, plants, and natural phenomena. Some notable examples of animistic spiritual beliefs are the ancient traditional beliefs of Japanese Shinto, many Native American traditions, and the New Age movement. A short article that more accurately summarizes animism in general can be found here.

Section discussion

In section today, I was in Group 3. For the close reading exercise, we read the passage about with Anthophora and Osmia bees. Fabre seemed partial to the Anthophora bees. He said they were the pioneers, artists even. On the other hand, he described the Osmia as theives, the bees that would steal from the Anthophora. The passage, to me, sounded like a metaphor for war. The Anthophora were building their homes and defense system, while the Osmia waited until the Anthophora were vulnerable to strike and take their homes, or a section of their complex tunnel system.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Animals by Maroon 5

In one of Maroon 5's newest songs, Animals, hidden behind a catchy beat and upbeat rhythm are sexist and speciesist lyrics. The lyrics compare the singer trying to win back a girl to him literally hunting her and making her his prey. "Baby I'm preying on you tonight, Hunt you down eat you alive." He's literally singing about hunting and eating her.. This ties back to The Sexual Politics of Meat and the discussion about how meat is a man's food and how eating meat is associated with masculinity. He is asserting his dominance by conveying her as meat, something HE eats as a man.

I thought this was particularly interesting because of how popular this song is. You can't drive for more than an hour without hearing it on the radio and it seems like no one noticed, or maybe no one cares, about what the lyrics are actually saying. Pictured Below are some screen shots from the music video of Adam Levine with raw meat. I'm interpreting the second photo as a collection of all the previous women he's "eaten alive" and has kept their carcasses as trophies.

Music video

Koko the Gorilla

In lecture today Professor Freccero showed some videos on Koko, a gorilla who is famous for learning sign language. Koko was taught sign language around a year old and now she is in her forties. She can speak more than a thousand words in sign language and can understand around two thousand English words. Dr Penny Patterson was working on her PhD in developmental psychology at Stanford University when she came across Koko at the San Francisco Zoo as a baby. Deciding to write her dissertation on the linguistic capacities of gorillas she began to study Koko and this turned into a lifelong project for her.

Giving a gorilla the ability to communicate with humans has allowed humans to see that other species have the capacity for language, as well as allowing us to see more through their eyes. We also have seen Koko express grief, both over her pet kitten dying, as well as her mourning Robin Williams, whom Koko met in 2001.

Aesop's Fables, "The Boy Who Cried Wolf"

In honor of Paper #2, I figured it would be fun to tell you all what my favorite childhood fable is. The Boy Who Cried Wolf was probably one of the first fables that I heard as a child and it is still my absolute favorite! I find it really fascinating because unlike numerous other fables where the main characters are animals, the main character in this fable is a human boy. Yet, his actions are based on the relationship between animals. He plays with the challenging (and often stereotypical) relationship between the wolf and the lamb in order to fool the townspeople who are afraid that there is a wolf that is going to eat their sheep. I think that the overall lesson of "Nobody believes a liar...even when he is telling the truth" is a very relevant lesson in the lives of children, who are usually the audience to this fable, because lying is often seen as the easy way out. Yet, lying will only last for so long, just as the fable suggests. I think this fable is interesting as well because it leads the reader to think about how humans have the capacity to save animals from the normal "circle of life." The boy cries wolf when he truly sees a wolf because he sees that the wolf is going to kill a lamb. He has the ability to save the lamb, but ultimately his actions get in the way and the circle of life in the animal world continues. Overall, I've always been fascinated with this story and I'm sure I'll be telling it to my future children one day.

Here is a link to the story for those of you who would love to refresh your memory on this classic fable:

Also, here is a cute little video telling the fable as well:

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Women and Animals

Something I've noticed a lot recently are that women are often compared to meat or animals. A woman's breasts are called "a rack." Women are often called "chicks." Women are also called "bitches," a term used for female dogs. Women having a fight are said to be having a "cat fight." Cougars, while a large wild cat, is also a term used to describe older women interested in having sexual relations with younger men. Interestingly enough, almost no such terminology is used for men. And such language promotes the notion that women are lesser than men, as are animals.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Difference with a Difference: Wild Men, Gods, and Other Protagonists

In last weeks readings, I found Vanita Seth's writing on Medieval anthropomorphic creatures very interesting. She writes about how the "Wild Man" in Medieval literature represents transgression between the world of man and the world of nature by morphing animal parts with human parts creating centaurs, satyrs, cyclops, and many other creatures. What caught my attention the most is that these forms of wild men in Medieval literature were never classified by their race. I found this extremely fascinating and began to look up images of Medieval creatures on google to see if I could classify their race. Unsurprisingly, many of the images I found entailed males with racial ambiguity. Wild men in the middle ages were everything but racialized and had no racial differentiation. Race as a representation of human diversity did not exist in the middle ages in general. This made me think about the start of racism in our world, and I realized racism is of very recent origin. Below are my findings of Medieval creatures with racial ambiguity.

Friday, April 24, 2015


Something I found interesting about the story of Bisclavret was how it related to the biblical story of Samson and Delilah. The story goes that Samson was a Nazirite who was strong and powerful, and one day he fell in love with a prostitute named Delilah. The leaders of the Philistines soon heard of this relationship and reached out to Delilah. (The Philistines were a group of people who were enemies of the people of Israel). Once they got in touch with her, her mission was to discover and unfold the secret behind Samson's strength.

She asked him three separate times and he lied to her on all three occasions, and she was angry that he would make a fool of her in such ways. So, after the third time she nagged and nagged until he was sick of listening to her that he told her his secret.

“No razor has ever been used on my head,” he said, “because I have been a Nazirite dedicated to God from my mother’s womb. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man.” (Judges 16:17)

When Delilah realized that this was the ultimate truth of his mighty strength, she put him to bed and called someone so they could shave off the braids of his head. Once this was done, his strength had left him for good. She then called for the Philistines and they took him and gauged out his eyes and took him as a prisoner. When he was imprisoned, his hair began to grow back again.

In the end of the story, the Philistines brought Samson out of the dungeon from where they were keeping him because they were going to sacrifice him to their god. Once he was out, he prayed out to God, and asked to give him his last final strength. When Samson was brought out he leaned against two pillars and brought them down upon the Philistines and he himself dies with them. He does this to get revenge from them taking out his eyes.

The moral of the story is that Samson told Delilah ("his love") his secret and once she found out, she used it against him to make him weak. This is the essentially the same scenario that happens in Bisclavret when he tells his wife his secret of being a wolf. Both women betray their partner and deceive them of their only weakness.

I just thought this related to origin stories we covered in the past couple weeks, and how they are closely relevant to each other.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Bisclavret: Fear and Loyalty

From our discussion today in section, I find it interesting to point out, that both arguments, Bisclarvet's and his wife's, both have to do with fear and loyalty. Bisclarvet was scared to tell his wife about his transformation, while the wife was scared of Bisclarvet as a werewolf. Through their fear, both become unloyal to each other. Bisclarvet doesn't tell his wife about his transformation, which causes the wife to ultimately betray him by taking his clothes and marrying another man. Through fear and betrayal, both lives have been ruined due to this lack of communication between man and wife.


The conversation between Bisclavret and his wife is interesting. When he told her he was a werewolf, she did not seem to be very afraid, but she was only afraid after he said that he took off his clothes. Did she ask about the clothes because wearing clothes made him more human? Did she stop loving him because he was an animal? She might not have loved him at all. She might have just wanted status. Bisclavret always loved his wife, but her love was wavering on his form.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Artificial Intelligence

Hello everyone,
I just wanted to share a link to this trailer. The movie is called "Ex-Machina", it deals with artificial intelligence and the meaning of what a "human" is. When Pofessor Freccero showed us the video of the robot that was given "human" traits it remained me of this trailer. It also put into perspective a couple of things, that a nonhuman that is not alive can be and portray human like traits. I also wanted to share how ironic it is that a woman robot was created by a man, it reminded me of the Genesis story of how it was from a man's rib  that a woman was born. Anyhow let me know what you think.

Animal Shelters

Hey Everyone!

I work at the Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter as a clinic volunteer and basically have an in depth sense of a vet office environment. It's been amazing, especially since I want to become a veterinarian and the experience is much appreciated!

Anyways, as a general volunteer of the Animal Shelter itself, I see animals come and go pretty frequently and while it's heartwarming to see animals find their forever homes, it's also sad to know how they got there in the first place. Past owners can be scary sometimes. Owner surrenders are also pretty sad.

When animals come into the shelter, they're put on watch and evaluations before they get put in the adoptable kennels. I don't know what happens to the other animals who don't pass but what I imagine is that they send them to what I've heard around as 'rescue,' but that's just my speculation. The SCCAS is a 'no kill animal shelter', but there have been animals euthenized there, only if it was a medical emergency (I've only seen this with cats myself and these cats were in really really awful condition) and they would be put down in the most humane way.

The clinic I work for has low cost spay and neuter plans and we advocate 'fixing' your animal so as to keep more animals out of the shelters and in homes instead.

My experience with all of the animals at the shelter have been completely positive and each and every dog, bunny, and cat I've ever spent time with there (given they were adoptable) have been sweet and so loving, and in desperate need for affection. If you ever consider owning an animal, please give your local shelters a chance instead of breeders (it encourages them to interbreed for money which is selfish, inhumane and unhealthy for animals) (plus adopting is much much cheaper). Puppy and kitty season are actually a thing too, so there are times in the year you will more likely come upon babies, if that's your thing! Also remember to spay and neuter your pets!

The SCCAS also accepts volunteers all the time so if you're interested, talk to me or go on their website!

See you there~

I feel like I draw a lot of my animal experience with this job so expect more shelter related posts from me!

Earth Day Google Page

Hey, did anyone notice for Earth Day, Google created a quiz called "Which animal are you?". There's a link at the bottom of the homepage. (I got coral which I did not realized was an animal, I assumed it would be classified under flora.)

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Rats at work

I'm fascinated by stories about human-animal working partnerships. What are the ethics of these collaborations? Can an animal ever really "collaborate" with a human, or will animal labor always involve exploitation? What would it take to make these relationships just?

Here's a story on the NYTimes about rats who sniff out land mines in Angola. The accompanying video is below. The men quoted in the story clearly want to provide a fair and just arrangement with their rat co-workers. Do you think they succeed?

Monday, April 20, 2015

Animals and Politics: Carls Jr. Advertisement

Carls Junior, known for it's big, juicy burgers has found that just advertisement a meat patty isn't enough to compete with other big name fast food restaurants.  This video is a collaboration of Carls Junior's attempts to appeal to a predominately male audience through sexualizing their products with attractive female models.  It is argued in Animal and Politics that meat is a masculine food, therefore these women are used to complement the food they are advertisement in a successful and 'sure-fire' way to capture male viewers attention.  What I found most interesting about this collaboration is that in the first commercial with Kim Kardashian the chicken in her salad isn't even the food being most emphasized, it is the apples.  Still, they proceeded to show Kim eating apples in the most sexually and unnecessary way possible.  Even if its not specifically advertising meat, women and their assets are still used as a consistent tool in advertising the food industry.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Factory Farms with Wayne Pacelle

Wayne Pacelle, who works at The Humane Society, spoke in January 2012 at a TEDx Talk in Manhattan about the relationship between humans and animals. The relationship between humans and domesticated animals is one of love and affection. Two-thirds of United States households have pets in their family. "There are more pets than people in American households," Wayne Pacelle stunningly states. All fifty states have anti-cruelty laws against domesticated animals. Cock-fighting and dog-fighting are felonies in every state. But despite this, farm animals are continually treated with cruelty and dismissal. Farm animals are not protected by these anti-cruelty statutes despite there being 10 billion farm animals across the country.

Pacelle discusses the appalling conditions animals are contained in, conditions that keep them from extending their limbs or even turning around. For example, pigs in gestation crates are only able to take one step forward or one step back and can't turn around. They are only taken out of their crates to give birth and are with their piglets only a short while before being impregnated once more and getting shoved back into a gestation crate. Animals in these factory farms, are no longer being treated as sentient living beings.

Watch the following video for more information about factory farms and the abuse farm animals experience.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

"Humane Slaughtering"

Hello everyone!

Earlier today, I stumbled upon an article written by The Onion called "We Raise All Our Beef Humanely On Open Pasture And Then We Hang Them Upside Down And Slash Their Throats".

As many of you may already know, The Onion is a satirical news organization that features many articles that comment on current events and problems - all from a satirical viewpoint.  The article I have enclosed is written from the point-of-view of a farmer.  This narrator touts that all of their cows are raised ethically and humanely; however, he then goes on to describe the process by which they go about killing the cows.  Through satire, The Onion effectively shows that the idea of "humane slaughtering" is ridiculous because even though the cows may have been "treated to exceptional care" during their lifetime, at the end, they will still be killed.  The Onion shows this by contrasting the farmer's rhetoric of how they humanely treat the animals, to the gross depiction of the actual slaughtering.

I hope everyone enjoys this humorous, yet thought-provoking, article.  I would love to hear what all of you think!

~ Cosme

A different look on animal abuse.

Good morning everyone, 

I came across this article this morning and was very happy to see that these animals were taken from their cages.
It's interesting that in the article they say the animals were taken from this elderly lady who kept them in cages. The situation they were being kept alive in was terrible. They lived in their own feces, had acid burns on their bodies from their own urine. Ten animals were found dead and officials believed it was from starvation.

Towards the end of the article, neighbors of the lady said that she was very kind and even involved in the Humane society for a couple years and the whole fiasco was a big surprise to them. 

I noticed in the comments, someone said that the only animal in this article was the lady and in the context of this class, I do not agree. This shows the separation of animals and humans and how animals are given the negative connotation because humans think they are superior. Yes, the lady, is the wrong one in this situation, but it's even offensive to all animals when they say her act was animalistic. It was not, it was a human characteristic to treat them this way. Not humane, human. 

Would you agree, disagree? Why? 

Heres a link:

Friday, April 17, 2015

Vice News article with Carol Adams: "Why Men Are Afraid of Going Vegan"

I just saw that Vice's food channel, Munchies, posted an article a few days ago which discusses exactly what we've been talking about in section/class, and even interviews Carol Adams about The Sexual Politics of Meat!

I think this article is well worth the read because, one: Vice articles are usually pretty awesome! I love that they present important information in a really raw way that all kinds of people can understand, and they can also be pretty funny (in comparison to the usual dry, boring academic stuff we normally have to read for classes).

and two: It also interviews a male advocate for veganism/vegetarianism who is basically completely on board with Adams. They do differ in the way they present their ideas to the public, however, which makes it all the more interesting. Basically, it's nice to see this idea coming from a different perspective.

Anyways, hope y'all enjoy the weekend~~

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Sexual Politics of Meat

After our discussion in section I was thinking about I was thinking about how often we see meat sexualized. I thought back to ads that I have seen. I am blown away by the absurdity of these ads. Every single one of these ads perpetuates the stereotype that meat and women and purely for the consumption of men. I focus on ads, because our generation is bombarded by them constantly. This worries me because this means these stereotypes are being driven into the heads of our society every day hundreds of times.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Genesis I-III: A Different View

Hello Everyone,
I figured that I would change things up a bit and respond to some of the lectures that we've had so far in our Animals in Literature class.
There is one thing that has stood out to me in lecture so far and that is our discussion of Genesis 1-3. In lecture, Professor Freccero talked about these passages in Genesis as giving two different glimpses into the creation of the world. She mentioned that Genesis 1 talks about the world being created and both man and woman being there. Then in Genesis 2 it talks about man being created, and then woman being created from man.

Well, I somewhat disagree with that interpretation. Here is the way that I see it:
In Genesis 1, the reader is given an introduction into the creation of the world. All good stories have an introduction, right? And the Bible is the best story! God is creating light, darkness, space, land, sea, animals, and humans. BAM. Introduction. Genesis 1 just gave us all an overview of God's creation, just like that.
Then we reach Genesis 2. Here, we are given a more in depth view of what was just being introduced in Genesis 1. We weren't told in the first part of Genesis how man or woman was created. This is why Genesis 2 goes into detail of how it happened.
So, I don't believe Genesis gives two different interpretations ... I believe there is an introduction, and a more in depth example of creation.

Also, I know that Professor Freccero discussed the beginning of Genesis as being an origin "myth," and she mentioned that some people take it as a fact. I am one of those people. I completely believe in Creationism and hold firm that God created all that surrounds us, including humans and animals. In class, we were shown a lot of videos about cave men, and cave drawing. Yet, when she got to creationism, we were shown a video that mocked creationism. So for the sake of Christianity, I am giving a link to what Christians truly believe about Genesis. Its an awesome video that will definitely have you thinking.

Tattooed Pigs

I randomly came across this story and don't even know how to react to it. Wilm Delvoye is designer who tattoos pigs and then, when the pigs pass away, uses their skin to make handbags. The ethics (or lack of) gross me out. But also, who would want a tattooed pig skin purse the goes for 50,000 pounds or more? Here's a link to the story:

Friday, April 10, 2015

Dolphins and Self-Awareness

I found this video on YouTube of dolphins reacting to themselves in a mirror (link provided below). There has been several experiments done to prove dolphins, like humans and other primates, as well as elephants, are self-aware. That means that when they look in a mirror they are able to recognize themselves. In one experiment conducted in 2001 by Diana Reiss, scientists put a mark on a dolphin and when the dolphin went under water it was seen examining itself in a mirror. A similar study was done with an elephant at the Bronx Zoo. Researchers put a white mark on the elephant's face and afterward the elephant was seen constantly turning in front of the large mirror to examine the mark. This video shows that animals cognitive abilities shouldn't be undermined. I highly enjoyed this video and invite you to watch it as well!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Favorite representation of an animal in TV/Film/Media/Magazines?

What is your favorite representation of an animal in the entertainment industry?
To break the ice, I'd like to say that I liked the main character (penguin) in Happy Feet, because he found his own talent that no other penguin had. He was a unique penguin that started dancing because he was passionate about it, and he wanted society to accept him.

A cat unnames herself

I see a connection between this song by the Weakerthans, "Virtute the Cat Explains Her Departure" (2007), and Ursula Le Guin's "She Unnames Them." The song gives us a cat's perspective on her own, voluntary un-naming. From the human POV, it's really sad; from the cat POV, maybe not?

Read the lyrics here

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Crane Wife

Relevant to next week's readings on the Japanese folk story of the crane wife: the indie band the Decemberists have a song cycle on their 2006 album The Crane Wife about this story. If you're interested in this retelling, you can watch the songs being performed below, and read the lyrics here.