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Human-Animal Relations in Three Cultures

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Humans' relationships with animals, increasingly the subject of controversy, have long been of interest to those whose primary aim has been the better understanding of humans' relationships with other humans

Since this topic was last reviewed here, human-animal relationships have undergone considerable reexamination, reflecting key trends in the history of social analysis, including concerns with connections between anthropology and colonialism and with the construction of race, class, and gender identities.

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One of the unique characteristic in human brains is the feeling of guilty. Human is the only animal species which will feel guilty, it is not possible even in our close primate relatives such as the chimpanzees. Kagan explained that “Guilt requires an agent to know that a voluntary act that could have been suppressed has hurt another. Guilt requires the ability to reflect on a past action that injured another in some way, to realize that the behaviour could have been inhibited, and to appreciate that the self was the cause of the ethical violation.” During human evolution, human developed to be conscious and aware to other’s feeling, while other animals did not. Thus, the feeling of guilty is one feature which makes human unique.Another unique quality in the Homo sapiens’ is that they are the animal species which are willing to limit their offspring from inclusive fitness (the ability of an organism to ensure the survival of their own offspring or to see how their genes pass on)

The family size in human families is thus decreasing. Meanwhile, in other species, they will reproduce the offspring as much as they can, so that their species would not extinct due to any environmental factors, such as drought, lack of food, lack of shelter, disease and so on. For example, female fish will lay their eggs as much as possible so that there will be a greater chance for the eggs being fertilized.

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Nowadays, animal husbandry may well be questioned, not only as regards efficiency of organization, ownership, production, health and economy but also ethically. It is quite clear that there is a strong link between animal welfare and overall efficiency in the production chain and that public concerns about ethics of production have an important role in modern animal husbandry (Szűcs, 1999; Szűcs et al., 2006). Animal welfare has become a growing factor affecting acceptability of agricultural systems in many countries around the world (Broom, 2001, 2010)

The public view is that the meaning of: dominion over animals is responsibility for animal welfare, including minimizing pain, stress, suffering, and deprivation while providing for needs (Broom, 2003). The general public, livestock producers and research scientists have shown an increasing interest in assuring proper animal care in the production chain. There is a corresponding increase in efforts by research and educational institutions, government agencies, enterprises, health care organizations and others in developing and accessing information that assists in creating appropriate housing environments, management procedures and humane conditions for the production of foods of animal origin.

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Ordinarily, studies of interactions between humans, or human and animals, may benefit from considering a three-part constellation. Since the interactions evoke tensions and ambiguous roles, they may shed light on how we categorize and ascribe meaning to various actors, relationships, and social spheres. Emotional work illustrates this, as well as the breaking up of the epithets ‘horse’ or ‘guest’ into specific individuals, addressed by their personal names

Therefore, by breaking up dyadic categories, and focusing on triads in specific contexts, the roles become more complex, highlighting new forms of power relationships, ambiguities, tensions, and contradictory views in the human-animal relationship.

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Broom DM. Animal welfare: an aspect of care, sustainability, and food quality required by the public. J Vet Med Educ. 2010;37:83–88

Linzey A. ‘Speciesism’ In: Barry Clarke P, Linzey A, editors. Dictionary of Ethics. Theology and Society. Routledge; London - New York: 1996.

Mill JS. Longman. Utilitarianism. London, UK: 1863.

Naconecy CM. EDIPUCRS. Ética e Animais: um Guia de rgumentação Filosófica. Porto Alegre, Brazil: 2006.

Szűcs E. Gondolatok az állatitermék-előállítás néhány etikai, etológiai kérdéséhez (Considerations to ethics and ethology of animal production). Á llattenyésztés és Takarmányozás (Hungarian Journal of Animal Production) Herceghalom. 1999;48:541–552.

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