Dog vs Pig

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This is my dog Bart. Anyone who knows me, knows that I am completely and utterly obsessed with him. I am definitely guilty of anthropomorphising him, I constantly call him baby and my best friend, I talk to him regularly and make up scenarios for what he might be thinking whilst he’s doing some strange doggy activity. I am aware this is a projection of my own needs and a process of humanisation for my own pleasure. As Una Chaudhuri puts it “As pets, as performers, as literary symbols, animals are forced to perform us – our fantasies and fears, our questions and quarrels, our hopes and horrors (2003)”. This certainly rings true to my own personal experience with animals. In the same way Desmond Morris said “The age of a child is inversely correlated with the size of the animals it prefers”, reflecting his argument that young children preferred larger animals because it reminded them of a parent and older children preferred smaller animals because it reminded them of a baby, which I can relate to.

But more importantly than this, why am I more inclined to feel this way about dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs and other popularly domesticated animals than say a pig?. After all pigs have even been known to out smart dogs, large amounts of research on pigs was conducted in the 1990’s and Professor Stanley Curtis of Penn State University, who discovered that pigs dominate at video games with joy sticks says, “Pigs are able to focus with an intensity I have never seen in a chimp”, so in theory humans should be able to recognise more potential in pigs. However, a prominent argument against this would be because we love to eat them. We label pigs as pork and bacon and cows as beef, making real animals vanish by putting names on them making it easier for us to ignore how these animals are treated in the meat industry. We have even concocted sayings like “I smell like a pig” affiliating pigs with being dirty and unclean when in actual fact pigs don’t even have sweat glands.

It can also be put down to how these animals are represented in the media. Dogs are often featured in advertisements for toilet paper, cars, food and even the super bowl. Dogs are allowed to have their own seats on trains in England and to sit in restaurants and cafes, whilst for Balinese people dogs are believed to be reincarnated thieves and criminals and are generally not kept as pets, so there can also be cultural factors involved too. However, psychologist and anthrozoologist Hal Herzog has recently written a book called ‘Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat’ in which he talks about factors contributing to our like and dislike of certain animals. He puts it down to the way they look and humans affiliation to connect to things that look like them, the closer the match, the more familiar the animal seems. For example, our canine friends, we teach them to sit and shake hands just to be more like us.

Humans have always tried to teach animals how to understand their language, but never tried to understand theirs. It is this primate mentality which allows us to treat some animals as family and others as objects.

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Let us learn from Anne Boleyn

Through out history, suffering has often been used as a tool by those in a more fortunate position to reassure themselves of their comfortability and stability. The problem with viewing poverty porn is it “produces abjectifying images of the poor through a privileged gaze for privileged gratification.”(The Conversation, 2015). This allows people to think, ‘this could never happen to me’.

Public executions in medieval times were seen as a joyous activity for the whole family to watch. Even the bible is based on suffering as Jesus persecutors “bound his hands so blood burst out of his nails”(Athene Reiss, 2008). These two examples are arguably some of the earliest forms of poverty porn. There are striking similarities between sitting down to watch human beings who are clearly very distressed on an episode of “Struggle Street” and going to the town square to watch a beheading, after all they too called it entertainment.

In the same way Kings and Queens put themselves in the position of thinking these public executions could never happen to them, educated, middle class citizens sit back on upholstered lounges and watch flat screen television with a comfortable living standard and think, “I will never have to live like these people do”. But as the example of Anne Boleyn tells us, we are never exempt from one step in the wrong direction and our lives being turned upside down, or in her case, your neck succumbing to the force of a single sword stroke.

Although the producers may have set out to create an accurate representation of the Mt Druitt community, what especially categorises this show as poverty porn is the entertainment value driven by the underlying class racism. Filming people whilst intoxicated, high and at their worst does not create a sympathetic audience and only helps to point the finger at the individual whilst ignoring figures of rising inequality and high unemployment rates. The photo below reflects this exact cause and effect with a woman being directly incriminated by struggle street filming her smoking illicit drugs whilst pregnant, viewers tweeted their reactions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

However, there are ways of creating accurate representations of people in crisis. For example, the image which became known as ‘Napalm girl’ picturing a 9 year old Vietnamese child running running in agony because her clothes and skin had been burnt off from the exposure to Napalm during the Vietnam war, a photo which some say hastened the end of the war.

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‘Napalm Girl’ Kim Phuc

A very similar story shook the world much more recently when Aylan Kurdi, a little boy whose body was washed up on a Turkish beach and reminded the world of the cost of denying thousands of refugees refuge from a war torn home land. This photo is arguably even more explicit than ‘Napalm girl’ as Kim Phuc survived these horrific burns where as Aylan sadly did not survive the immigration policies of many democratic countries, including Australia.

So why, after the release of magazines and newspapers featuring this heart wrenching photo on their covers all over the world, when the speed of communication, transport, internet connection and media freedom is stronger than ever before, have there been no dramatic changes to Australia and the worlds immigration policies when we have seen the consequences first hand.