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Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter

From 25 October 2008 Issue

PAWPRINTS, FOOTPRINTS & ANIMAL CHATTER

By Judith Marie Gansen
Prejudice in the Animal World--Of Wild Horses and Pitbulls

What Causes Prejudice?

Any negative experience a person has in life can sometimes cause prejudice towards a certain kind of people or form a fear of an animal or even develop into a "phobia." All beings remember negative experiences as a means of survivial. I believe the basis for most prejudice in humans is fear and ignorance.

How families bring up their children can cause many forms of prejudice. Teaching children that animals are "dirty" or "stupid" or a "lesser species" keeps the cycle going from generation to generation in much the same way that prejudice against people because of religion or skin color continues to rear its ugly head in our world. It's easier to fear and hate than it is to try to understand. If enlightenment and forgiveness do not occur in the parents, then that hatred is passed on to their children. Hopefully, when children become adults they sort out the good things parents taught them from the bad things and learn to be better human beings.

Definition of Prejudice (from Merriam-Webster online):

...." preconceived judgment or opinion (2): an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge b: an instance of such judgment or opinion c: an irrational attitude of hostility directed against an individual, a group, a race, or their supposed characteristics"

As a Christian, I would never condone racism or intolerance because I believe that goes against the teachings of Jesus. A good religion should challenge us to become better people and to constantly work on ourselves, not think we are already a "finished product" when we become adults. Most people when given the term "prejudice" think of people prejudice, but what about animal prejudice?

Prejudice Against Animals

In thinking about how prejudice could apply to animals, I think of things like breed specific legislation (banning breeds like pitbulls), scientists who assume that animals have no feelings or intelligence, etc. In the one instance people are prejudging pitbulls based on the fact the breed is unfortunately often cruelly mistreated and therefore could turn vicious. In the other, prejudice against the idea that animals feel pain and fear like we do likely makes performing experiments on them alot easier to bear for some researchers.

How about the prejudice that some cattle businesses have against our wonderful wild horses? Even though facts speak otherwise, myths continue to prevail about this issue. Right now our government is actually considering KILLING the wild horses they are holding because they can't find enough homes for them! Why not just set them free in an area that is wild and open? or find a sanctuary for them at least? (your comments are needed!!):

YouTube - Sheryl Crow Wild Horse Video or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bOrYT0156SU

Wild horses might be killed in the West or http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/unleashed/2008/07/wild-horses-mig.html

End Horse Slaughter Permanently | The Humane Society of the United States or http://www.hsus.org/legislation_laws/citizen_lobbyist_center/help_end_horse_slaughter.html

Scientists who assume animals are far beneath us could be guilty of prejudging the lab animal they are working with by assuming we already know everything about that species (we don't) and it must be true they are dumb animals because there is no data to prove otherwise (not true). Tell the woman that her Doberman Pincher is "dumb" when a recent show depicted this intelligent dog arranging his toys in categories (dogs, bears, etc) in her back yard as well as triangles. Sometimes all the toys are face down and sometimes face up. When this rescue dog's new guardian was allowed to put her arm around him for the first time, she later found two stuffed pets, one holding its arm around the other!! A University of Michigan researcher is now studying this case having set up cameras because she didn't believe this was happening either--the cameras showed the truth!! Dumb animals you say????

Having a preconceived notion about any animal could certainly affect the outcome of a lab experiment simply because if a scientist has prejudice towards that animal based on a previous experience (maybe a stressed chimpanzee attacked), he/she may find it hard to keep that prejudice out of the experiment. Self-awareness only comes from years of self-reflection and work. Some people get "stuck" and never graduate up the ladder to a higher level of enlightenment.

And what about our wonderful creatures, bats? They are not what many would consider to be attractive but they are gentle creatures who consume disease-carrying mosquitoes and pollinate species of plants. They are also a "barometer" for toxins in an area. Yet years of movies and TV showing them in vampire movies, attacking people and being associated with evil has caused us to fear and hate them. Isn't that a form of prejudice that we have developed from getting information that is flawed? Don't we also often attribute positive qualities to creatures we consider "beautiful" and negative qualities to creatures we consider to be "ugly"?

And how are some insurance companies guilty of prejudice? How about when they raise rates on someone because they own a certain breed of dog? Some will not even give policies if a certain animal is in the house. In fact, all dog problems (unless there is a physical or serious emotional problem with the dog) are caused by PEOPLE LAZINESS OR LACK OF EDUCATION in how to properly positively train and socialize a dog.

The Media Affect on Prejudice

The media plays a very important role in how we perceive issues in our world. If they only report the few times animal advocates have broken the law and never report the huge amount of good work that we do, then people perceive us as a bunch of crazy people. Since major corporations now own most media and corporations are sometimes involved in animal issues, it is important that the media remain as open and free as possible or our work to help animals will be negatively affected. For info on media reform, this organization does excellent work:

http://www.freepress.net/ or Home | Free Press

How Do We Fight Prejudice Inside Ourselves--My Pitbull Experience

I developed a prejudice towards pitbulls at some point in time even though I am a huge dog lover. Negative personal experiences as well as reading about too many attacks by pitbulls in the news caused this. (I read that the term "pitbull" is often associated with 3 distinct breeds of dogs which causes confusion). When you see only one negative side of an issue, you need to experience or learn about the positive side--that pitbulls have saved lives and are loving companions to many people.

Then recently I saw a wonderful TV show about how the pitbulls taken from a dogfighting ring were not only turned around with lots of love and kindness but became loving companions-- even becoming therapy dogs for people in nursing homes. I cried and was very upset with myself since I realized this supposedly enlightened, hopefully intelligent and loving animal person was guilty of something I never thought I had--animal prejudice. My apologies to pitbulls everywhere!

There is A LOT of prejudice towards animals in many different ways--it is up to us to change those perceptions!!

"Prejudices subsist in people's imagination long after they have been destroyed by their experience." Ernest Dimnet (Webster's Treasury of Relevant Quotations), P.490

PLEASE NOTE:

Pawprints, Footprints & Animal Chatter are my opinion (editorials) on mostly animal issues. Thank you so much for emailing me with positive comments or constructive criticism or disagreement that we can all learn from. If I don't respond to your email, please re-email me! I make every effort to respond to any email but I am very busy and a few times had computer problems too. Emails can also "disappear" in cyberspace--rare but it can happen. I make every effort to courteously respond--THANKS!! Please be sure to indicate in subject line that it is about my article so I don't delete as spam.)

Judy shortietek@aol.com Staff: Animals in Print (free online animal publication) http://www.all-creatures.org/aip/ 

"We exist to educate and through compassion and knowledge improve the lives of all beings."

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