Digital Museum Project of Human-Animal Relationships (mostly 19th-century English and American)

Colonialism and the Animal Welfare Movement

A fantastic exhibit on the intersection of the animal welfare movement and colonialism: a short book addressed “to the children of Calcutta” to convince young people to adopt the cause.

The book begins by introducing a “band of valiant gentlemen”—knights—who “roved about different countries seeking to do deeds of great bravery,” painting imperialist exploration as a Christian crusade of Arthurean proportions. First, the author celebrates their victory against the “cruel giants” of slavery, successfully freeing the “poor captives”(…. thank you?!)

He seamlessly changes the subject to another set of cruel giants and victims. But he does not divulge the fact that he is speaking of non-human animal victims until a few pages of emotional description, after stirring up heroic sentiment.    

Turning to shaming tactics (one of the greatest weapons of the animal welfare movement), the author describes how the “great army to fight against cruelty” in England, Scotland, and Ireland had inspired “nearly all the other countries in the world” do do the same…. 

"…. but there is one country—one whole quarter of the globe I said nothing about—that is, ASIA. This you all know is where we are. Now, as Asia is bigger than Europe, and Europe has more than one hundred and forty "Societies," how many do you think Asia ought to have?—Asia has only one…. “

"Perhaps you ask why doesn’t the great "Royal Society" in London (which we call our Parent Society) send some of its officers out here. Oh! they could not afford that! They have enough fighting to do there, and every country must find its own army. They did all they could for us, as good parents always do. They showed us how to begin, and what to do, and gave us their Law, and told us all they had done, and now they expect us to do our best and fight for ourselves." 

When did we start calling hydrophobia “rabies”?

This was this morning’s mystery. Not for any particular work, mind you, but I was re-reading my Dracula chapter, and I remembered how interesting it had been for me to learn that rabies used to be called “hydrophobia.” When did the transition happen?

Some interesting observations:

Hydrophobia seemed like a suitable name for some time. In many cases, apparently, its victims reportedly avoided water. Even as cases were reported where this was not the case—even that a patient instead gorged himself on water—the name stuck around. There was quite a bit of overlap—decades during which people wrote both “rabies” and “hydrophobia.” I imagine that with medical terms in particular there’s a lot of “rabies, formerly known as hydrophobia,” &c. &c. 

The use of “hydrophobia” persisted even long after it was fairly settled that rabies did not necessarily manifest as a fear of drinking, or being near to, or getting into, water. Even for decades after Louis Pasteur’s treatment was developed and accepted (it took a while). The significant drop, after the 1920s, is likely due to the fact that the last recorded case in the U.K. was in 1922 (and largely controlled by the 1890s due to muzzling orders). 

At its late stages, it seems that rabies is quite unbearable, and one of the ways in which late-stage rabies was handled was, essentially, euthanasia. (The victim would be smothered under a mattress.) There is still no cure as such, but our modern-day treatment (prevention via practices of animal control and the prophylaxis first developed by Pasteur) is effective enough, and we no longer worry about rabies during the “dog days” of summer.  


Creating Carnivores and Cannibals: Regulating the Traffic in Meat

My paper has been accepted for ACLA’s 2014 annual meeting for a seminar with Kari Weil! I had the great fortune to meet her during the ASI-WAS Human-Animal Studies Fellowship and really look forward to regrouping with fellow HAS folks. It has been too long!

My contribution to the seminar is on meat-based diets. We seem to always be talking about how much meat we should eat or not eat. I want to look beyond the human diet. 

In the streets of nineteenth-century Londonand the U.S., the “dog’s-meat man” would hawk horseflesh for the dogs that were being refashioned into beloved companions. For dogs, this was a step up the food ladder: accorded the privilege of eating the meat of other animals, dogs were nudged closer to humanity. In turn, this was a step down for horses, who without human intervention were not likely to fall prey to dogs.While humans eschewed eating the carcasses of “knackered” cab horses—and the “dog’s-meat man” was the butt of derisive jokes—they approved the carnivorous extension of the diets of their new animal friends.

Humans have classified other animals according to the uses they serve—as Hal Herzog puts it, “some we love, some we hate, some we eat.” But how else have we classified animalkind?

My paper explores the ways in which we have not only regulated what we can love/hate/eat, we have also regulated what, when, and how much other animalscan love/hate/eat. In the nineteenth century, we granted more access to meat to those animals that we loved. We force-fed animals before slaughter. We developed almanacs and handbooks decreeing “optimal” animal diets in detail. We marked the failure to eat certain animals (e.g., cows) or the choice to eat others (e.g., dogs) as contraventions of nature. 

I propose looking at these practices to map the nineteenth-century’s complex traffic in meat, uncovering the species, gender, class, and race politics of human and non-human meat-eating. By exploring the nineteenth-century construction of this food chain in literature, animal care manuals, farming journals, and popular periodicals, I also hope to shed light on how over the last 200 years we have become a society that feeds cows to cows, dogs to dogs.