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The Nature of Being

rethinking the facts of life

My conclusion on homophobia in Hip Hop

I can’t change rap and we can’t forbid homophobia. That would simply be the wrong approach. While writing these posts I realized that the whole topic is just about opinions. I’d say that the right thing to do would be to abolish homophobia and every kind of sexism out of hip hop because it helps to reproduce it in our society. But the artistic freedom outweighs this – How do you objectively tell if it is homophobia, irony, story telling or whatsoever (see Edgar Wasser – Bad Boy)? I think that there is a responsibility for every artist to make sure her or his work doesn’t create any harm. This is particularly crucial for topics like homophobia and sexism that are still well established in society.

Many do not understand this or refer to the responsibility of the listeners (for more statements have a look into this documentary that just came out recently: http://reportage.einslive.de/plan-b-homophobie-im-deutschrap#18858). From a legal point of view this is absolutely fine but it denies the lacking maturity of many listeners who might adopt the portrayed lifestyles and attitudes or just find encouragement for already consisting opinions.

But there is a good development going on in German rap right now. While still a lot of homophobia can be found in German rap music there are also many successful artists who come up with non-homophobic tracks and often even use their music to deal with the issue. This helps to make the listeners think and raises awareness for the stupidity of other rappers. I also got the impression that homophobia is a topic in interviews more often. Even though the responses are often disappointing I am sure that this aids to reduce homophobia in rap because the rappers simply do not like to be confronted with it or try to avoid a bad reputation. This won’t change their minds but it will keep them from changing other minds.

So what did I learn while writing these posts? Homophobia is still too well present in modern mainstream rap music. All in all, it seems to be declining but it still sells. For that reason, rappers keep on using it in many ways – It is a social problem that gets bundled up and amplified in rap music. We can’t and we shouldn’t forbid it. As long as our society stays as homophobic as it is rap also will be. But I also learned that many rappers become more aware and they use their music to address the problem. Just like in the early days when rap music was used to show the hardship of being part of an ethnic minority (and it is still used for this) rap now starts to address the oppression of LGBT-people. It seems to be in the beginnings and I am confident that this development will continue. The best thing you can do is to choose carefully who you support and if you find someone who has a good approach help to spread the word. Rap will only change if society changes. But it can help to accelerate the process.

A little collection of more conscious rappers

My foregoing posts might have created the impression that Hip Hop is a one-sided homophobic and misogynistic world – But this is not always the case.

Over the months in that I wrote these posts I encountered many artists who are more conscious about homosexuality but also sexism and violence in their lyrics and especially recently more of them are coming up. In this post I would like to introduce you to some of them.

Well known for standing up for LGBT-rights is the German rapper Sookee who studied linguistics and gender studies. She deals with homophobia and sexism in most of her songs. I am not that much into her rap style but I think that her attitude delivers a nice contrast to the usual German rap homophobia.

I already mentioned Edgar Wasser, a rapper from Munich – He often refers to sexism in Hip Hop but also to homophobia. He doesn’t reveal much of his private life so I can’t tell much else about him. I really like how he confronts the modern rap scene in an ironical way. Take some time to explore his music and to think through the lyrics!

Another German rap group with a clear position on homophobia but also on racism is Antilopen Gang from Düsseldorf and Aachen. A good start point to their music is the song “Verliebt” that presents a nice statement to the listener. Their message is exemplary.

Retrogott (former Kurt Huss) deals with gender related topics nowadays way different than on his old songs. Compare these two and you might be quite surprised about the development he made over the years. 1 2

But apart from these there are some lesser known rappers worth mentioning.

MXM & Pavel from Berlin who are part of the label “Upstruct” introduce a nice down-to-earth attitude to the Berlin rap scene. With their modest working class style, they pose quite a difference to most other artists nowadays.

Pöbel MC, also part of Upstruct, positions himself quite clearly against homophobia.

I’d also recommend Dramadigs from Bremen. They also don’t fit into the usual rap pattern. If you like their music also take some time to watch this short movie that Juli Haase made as part of ther master thesis.

This is by far not an exhaustive presentation of “conscious” rappers but I hope I could give you a little insight and a starting point to explore more. No matter what kind of rap you’re into, there is a lot to find. 🙂

Discussion of the statements

In this post I am going to discuss the different reflections by the artist that I introduced you to in my previous post.

The reflections ranged from ignoring the issue to full comprehension. First of all, a summarization of the “types” of statements:

 

  • Semantic re-interpretation of homophobic terms compared with:
    • a tacit change in appearance (Eminem & Sido)
    • ignoring the issue (Bushido)
  • Omission of homophobia during the performance of former homophobic lyrics (NAS)
  • Full comprehension of the issue (Retrogott)
  • Usage of homophobia to raise awareness on the issue (Edgar Wasser)

 

A semantic reinterpretation does not reduce the issue – homophobic terms are still being used as an insult and simply mentioning that there is no semantic connection intended does not necessarily induce a change in the understanding of the (mostly young male) listeners. To me it is just a failed attempt to extenuate the own foolishness without admitting a fault. These artists are still homophobic and try to avoid social sanctions. But I would suggest to distinguish between these artists based on their shown behavior over time. I think some of them are aware of their faults and even reconsidered their view on homosexuality but do not want to devaluate their old songs while others still do not know any better.

 

Simply omitting homophobic lines during live performances does not solve the issue at all. Especially because it might be due to instructions by the organizers and not caused by a change of mind. You just cannot tell if no other statement can be found.

I am convinced that homophobia should have no place in a modern society.

Due to this the only considerable way to deal with your own (former) homophobia is to admit to your fault. The only artist I encountered on my research who did this step was Retrogott (former “Kurt Huss”, better known in combination with his DJ “Hulk Hodn”: “Huss & Hodn”). He also made use of a justification based on semantic reinterpretation but later, actually three years ago, reconsidered his view: He admitted his fault: He tried to justify something you cannot justify. I see it as an artist’s responsibility to take up a stance on their former homophobia. Whoever does not just loses their credibility.

For me, this is the only way an artists can go to rectify their former homophobia.

The only exemption that can be made is when homophobia is used to show up our social drawback – Edgar Wasser does a good job on holding up a mirror to all those rappers.

Some of you might wonder why I did not mention any artist who is homophobic and never even talked about it. This is not because there are none to find, actually there are heaps of them. But what is there to say?

My next post will focus on artists who follow a more contemporary approach to homophobia.

What artists say about their own homophobia

In this post I am going to show you some statements by the artists I introduced you to last time about their homophobia. First I planned on differentiating between different types of homophobia that can be found. This would be possible for sure but I came to the conclusion that it would not be beneficial for this analysis for one simple reason: There might be different types and intensities of homophobia but eventually they all have similar effects on the (young male) listener: Many incorporate it in their word pool without reflecting it any further.

A more interesting approach is how the artists think about their own homophobia and if they changed their attitude towards it over the years. On the basis of the artists I introduced you to last time I am going to show you different types of reflection.

Let us start with the most famous rapper and probably the most controversial one, too. Eminem is well known for his lyrics and often has been accused of being homophobic. His justification always remains the same – He just denies using homophobic terms as an insult to homosexual people rather than using them in another semantic context: 

You’ve made it clear again and again that you don’t actually have a problem with gay people. So why, in 2013, use “faggot” on that song? Why use “gay-looking” as an insult?

I don’t know how to say this without saying it how I’ve said it a million times. But that word, those kind of words, when I came up battle-rappin’ or whatever, I never really equated those words . . .

 To actually mean “homosexual”?

Yeah. It was more like calling someone a bitch or a punk or asshole. So that word was just thrown around so freely back then. It goes back to that battle, back and forth in my head, of wanting to feel free to say what I want to say, and then [worrying about] what may or may not affect people. And, not saying it’s wrong or it’s right, but at this point in my career – man, I say so much shit that’s tongue-in-cheek. I poke fun at other people, myself. But the real me sitting here right now talking to you has no issues with gay, straight, transgender, at all. I’m glad we live in a time where it’s really starting to feel like people can live their lives and express themselves. And I don’t know how else to say this, I still look at myself the same way that I did when I was battling and broke.[1]

 

But there is more to mention about Eminem. He is friends with Elton John who is homosexual and even had a show with him at the Grammy Awards 2001.[2] In 2010 he openly supported gay marriage in a NY Times interview:

 

You’ve been accused of writing gay-bashing lyrics in the past. Would you like to see gay marriage approved in Michigan, where you live?

I think if two people love each other, then what the hell? I think that everyone should have the chance to be equally miserable, if they want.[3]

 

The most surprising thing I found was the contrived outing of Eminem in „The Interview“[4]. It is worth a look!

 

Also quite controversial and from Germany are Bushido and Sido. Both are known for their controversial lyrics, especially from their first records they made with „Aggro Berlin“. They showed up at „Markus Lanz“ (German TV show) and spoke about their controversity, especially about their homophobia.[5] Their justification remains the same as with Eminem – Another semantic context for homophobic terms. Bushido repeated this in an interview with „Focus“ by the help of a real poor comparison of homophobia with arachnophobia.[6]

If you watch this video (http://www.queer.de/detail.php?article_id=8987) which is only three years older than their appearance at Markus Lanz and also take the newer Tracks by Bushido in consideration (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Odu8UlL4uew) his credibility in terms of not being homophobic just disappears.

Sido seems to be going another way nowadays. In the official video to his Song „Liebe“ (love) you can see two men kissing (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wPuJlNSigHM). But I do not claim for myself to judge it this was a moral change rather than a financial one…

From NAS I could not find any statements. The only article I found states that he skips homophobic parts while his hype still shouts parts of it in the background.[7]

More interesting is how Retrogott reflects his older homophobic tracks. Lyrics from his older songs can be seen as quite homophobic without any doubt and have been part of public debates.[8] [9] But if you listen to newer tracks homophobia decreases more and more from each album until you cannot find it anymore. In some lyrics you will find the same approach many other rappers chose – a semantic separation:

„Ihr seid schwul!

Und das mein ich nicht im Sinne von Sex

Sondern im Sinne von ‘ihr macht schwule Tracks“

Huss & Hodn – Rokin’ (Jetzt schämst du dich!)

But in an interview from 2013 he refers directly to this line:

„Ich habe versucht, etwas zu rechtfertigen, das nicht zu rechfertigen ist“ (Melodie & Rhythmus Nov/Dez 2013)

 

So as you can see big differences between the artists can be found. Some just stick to their idiotic views while others changed and admitted their faults. In the next post I am going to discuss these positions.

But what about Edgar Wasser? Did you get it? If you did not, watch this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JGM5a6-77o4

 

 

[1] http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/exclusive-eminem-responds-to-rap-god-homophobia-accusations-20131104

[2] http://www.mtv.com/news/1629030/eminem-talks-about-his-friendship-with-elton-john/

[3] http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/20/magazine/20fob-q4-t.html?_r=1

[4] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qW31MBrbZnM

[5] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jOolAfjv3xg

[6] http://www.focus.de/kultur/musik/tid-32375/jetzt-raeumt-bushido-gegenueber-focus-online-ein-wenn-sich-claudia-roth-entschuldigt-werde-ich-das-auch-tun-ssss_aid_1045142.html

[7] http://www.thewrap.com/nas-cuts-homophobic-lyrics-tribeca-film-festival/

[8] http://www.wn.de/Muenster/2013/10/Homophobie-Vorwurf-gegen-Rapper-Freiheit-der-Kunst-oder-Hetze

[9] http://www.laut.de/News/Retrogott-Hulk-Hodn-Homophobie-Vorwurf-gegen-Rapper-11-10-2013-9883

Societal Wrap Up

Society, according to the definition from Google, is the aggregate of people living together in a more or less ordered community. What I find interesting about this definition is the fact that they used the term “more or less”. Essentially this term allows leaving room for failure as well as the trial and error that is needed in order to figure out what works and what does not. Unfortunately I feel as if what works and what does and what does not was based predominantly on a male point of view. From tv advertisements for food, clothing, perfumes and the like, woman have been brushed under the rug and deemed as creatures only made to fit societies form only to please the male. And even though it has probably been known by woman of older generations , it seems as if it has only begun to be more forcefully rebelled against. This is simply one of the many ways that society has shaped and formed our minds.

It as if we have been so manipulated by what is crammed into our head from the point of elementary school to the beginning of university that it is at times we are somehow unsure of how a situation would be a problem. For example, I was online the other day and saw someone post about how in American schooling during how we learn, a few pages about Mexicans in America, 3 or so weeks learning about African Americans and Slavery, and 9 months on white colonization. Now I had not even thought about how messed up this system is. This is the same education we pay 50,000 dollars for and we only get at times, what we pay for and what our school districts allow for us to learn. Systematic Selective learning at its best.

My article about LGBT in Media being killed off was an eye opener to me. I was aware of the problem but did not think of an act to rebel against it in order to initiate change. Or how women have the biological urge and how “one day it will hit them and they will want to have kids because that’s what women do. What society has conformed us to think and how behave. The worst being we are programmed to learned and do what we are told and to not ask questions less it reap penalty from authorities.

Now this generation has been blooming and really fighting back against what we feel is right and wrong and speaking up for ourselves but how much are we really going against the grain? We seek change and others are acknowledging this, however it is like a one step forward in two steps back aspect. In regards to the new Barbie Ad, we are shown how it is amazing that young boys are being advertised in playing with what is seen as a predominately female toy but still in a sense, advertised negatively and instead of him being of a more respectable boy he’s portrayed as being very cheeky and what message does that send? It is almost as if they do it for the possible negative reaction so that there is an excuse not to advertise like that again in the near future.

If I were to end this off by saying anything, it would be that from my experience in this world, this society we have been bred in, it would be to never take someone’s word as final. Question the subjects you learn about, research them and do not let anyone force you to believe something when first hearing about it. Because what makes this generation ,as well as other generations, special is the way we think. Our mind is our own so we must continue to question things to make, create and live in a society that is more than less an ordered community.

Sparkling wine vs. strong beer

After my last post I asked myself the question, if separating people in different boxes ends up in separation in everyday life. And I think that’s the case in many situations. Men and women get in relationships and build a family together, but when it comes to leisure time, they are supposed to do totally different things. In Germany there is this “tradition” to make Männerabende (boys night out) and Frauenabende (girls night out). On this evening, only people with the same gender can do gendered stuff. Step two is, that not only your personal leisure time is gendered, society places are too.

One of those gendered activities were computer games. Digital games were the place only for men, like football, beer and strip bars naturally. Places were men could be “real men”, rude, drunk and out of control (In German here are some suggestions for men nights: http://www.wanted.de/maennerabend-frauen-muessen-draussen-bleiben/id_54639186/index). Or what does “real men” mean? Don’t get me wrong, that’s not the way I would categorize male preferences, but that’s the way society labels it. It’s totally clear that not every man is doing exactly that kind of things on an all man’s evening, also not every woman does the same thing on a girl’s night out, but there seems to be a necessity to put your leisure time in a box. And this box here says: no women allowed. On the other hand, women make girls night out for women only, where you can drink sparkling wine, eat chocolate, watch love story films and do beauty stuff. Emotional breakouts, chatting and giggling all night long. Amazing!

The thing is, when I read about how men fight against transsexual persons in digital games (Computer games – the world of gender boxes?), I remembered how women (especially feminists) are/were fought by men in this domain, too (For example the case of Amber Scott: http://www.polygon.com/2016/3/30/11335360/nintendo-fires-treehouse-employee-who-was-target-of-harassment). Men insisted on the classic role model in games, were women were mainly sexualized. They fought for a digital place where only “real” men could live their dream, alone or in groups. Sounds to me like beautiful naked women running around all the time and the male (of course) main character is standing there with a manly, strong, giant weapon in one hand and a bloody steak in the other. Awesome!

Some heterosexual men want to control this domain, but here is my question; is there a comparable place for women? On girl’s night out, there are no men allowed (except gay men maybe, hello cliché), too. But are there women places, which are defended by women to stay `only women places`? So the only place that comes to my mind, which is taken by women on their own, is a beauty salon. Maybe something like pony clubs in their childhood, but there were always boys allowed too. Can anybody tell me a place, an organization where women freaked out because men wanted to be a part of it too (no sorry, sauna doesn’t count)? Do you have any ideas?

 

-Selina

Links:

http://www.polygon.com/2016/3/30/11335360/nintendo-fires-treehouse-employee-who-was-target-of-harassment

http://www.wanted.de/maennerabend-frauen-muessen-draussen-bleiben/id_54639186/index

The moral Obligation towards other Species

So what is the solution to this dilemma? To this paradoxical, yet seemingly inevitable, nature of the relationship between humans and non-human animals, between nature and culture?

I do not have an easy answer. I am not sure if I have an answer, at all – let alone a generalisable one. I´d rather say that this is very much a question of individual ethical reasoning.

However, there is one aspect that is crucial for this kind of reasoning to be allowed and that is empathy. Empathy, i.e. the ability of putting ourselfes in the positions of others and seeing that their suffering is like our own, enables us not only to understand them better and feel compassionate toward them [1], but to take their interests into consideration when making decisions for our own ends, whether they be our kin, kind, a stranger or an entirely different species.

Some might ask, why we should take members of other species into consideration at all. To me the answer is quite simply, for the same reasons we take into consideration the wellbeing of every single member of the human society. We apply basic consideration to all humans, no matter of their mental or physical capacities, their character or looks. So given that we view all humans as equals in regard to those basic commonalities, I can see no reason why we should not apply the same rights to nonhuman creatures who share the same characteristics.

Orphaned kangaroo joeys give each other closeness and comfort
Orphaned kangaroo joeys give each other closeness and comfort
DSC09801
Kangaroo mothers love their young unconditionally, the females staying together in family groups for many years
Kangaroo Orphans often suckle their fingers or toes or bits of material for comfort, just like human babies do
Kangaroo Orphans often suckle their fingers or toes or bits of material for comfort, just like human babies do

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are many suggestions which characteristics are necessary to imply a moral obligation on us towards someone else. But there are none I can think of that would apply to humans only and all humans, but not to any nonhuman creatures. In fact, I am rather prone to think of the one that all sentient beings have in common: The ability to suffer and a desire to live.

“In most ways, human beings are not equal; and if we seek some characteristic that all of them possess, then this characteristic must be a kind of lowest common denominator, pitched so low, that no human being lacks it. The catch is that any such characteristic that is possessed by all human beings will not be possessed only by human beings. For example, all human beings, but not only human beings are capable of feeling pain; and while only human beings are capable of solving complex mathematical problems, not all humans can do this. So it turns out that in the only sense in which we can truly say, as an assertion of fact, that all humans are equal, at least some members of other species are also “equal” – equal, that is, to some humans.” (Peter Singer) [2]

And if there is no objective reason to assume that human interests are in any way more important than nonhuman ones, then the only justification that remains for our treatment of nonhuman creatures is their membership of a different species – and the argument, thus, a speciesist one.

So, if we acknowledge the right to live a life free of suffering to all humans, there can be no objective reason to refuse the same to nonhuman animals.

Wallaby Lilly and I - we are really not so different, you know!
Wallaby Lilly and I – we are really not so different, you know!

Personally, I hope that, like with other forms of discrimination, we will cease to mistreat other sentient beings on the grounds of their species and acknowledge their place as equals. Equal, in the ability to suffer, to feel pain and pleasure, to love; and the desire to live.

 

Footnotes:

[1] about the connection between empathy and compassion, cf. Nussbaum 2001: 327f.
[2] Singer (2009): 237.

References:

Nussbaum, Martha C. (2001): Upheavals of Thought. The Intelligence of Emotions. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, New York, Oakleigh, Madrid, Cape Town.

Singer, Peter (2009): Animal Liberation. HarperCollins Publishers: New York. First published 1975.

Altruism and the Problem of Anthropomorphism

In my last post I have concluded that conservation in Australia is overall anthropocentric in the sense that it serves to legitimise human life activity rather than preserve nature for nature´s sake.

However, I believe that there are altruistic motives to conservation, as well.

I have been involved in wildlife rehabilitation efforts in Australia for four years now, and have met some wonderful individuals who care for wildlife simply because they love them. Scientifically speaking, this phenomenon could be explained by the concept of compassion-induced altruism. E.g., according to Matha Nussbaum´s moral philosophy, concern for another being´s wellbeing may be “motivated or supported by the imaginative exercise of putting oneself in that person´s place”[1]. Those compassionate individuals thus devote a great deal of their time and money to the rescue, care and rehabilitation of injured and orphaned wildlife. Volunteers restlessly attend emergency phone lines and provide first aid on reported cases before they are being distributed to nearby shelters for treatment and care. Carers set up their entire daily routine around the wellbeing of their fosterlings. Especially raising young requires frequent feeds and constant care; animals in care require different husbandry conditions according to species, development stage and kind of injury/treatment; hygiene is of utmost importance. Many individuals who take on this task are pensioners who are ready to adapt their daily life entirely to the care of the animals, but rely on a small income to fund this.

While many carers do a wonderful job at rearing and rehabilitating these animals, it is quite a difficult undertaking, as we cannot ask them how they feel, what they need and what they want. We always face the possibility of captivitiy-induced stress, in the worst case leading to fatal myopathy. In order to ensure the wellbeing of the animals we care for, we need to try and evaluate what is best for them. Intuitively, we do this by interpreting their behaviour according to our own standards – we anthropomorphise [2] them. Often, that can be helpful and in many cases the things we observe seem very obvious, e.g. a kangaroo standing in a hunched position may imply it is feeling unwell. Other notions are much more difficult to observe and misinterpretation can lead to long-term disadvantages for the animal.

For instance, how much love does an animal need in order to thrive? Experience has shown that orphaned kangaroos, like most marsupials, require a quality of care sufficient to substitute the close bond between the in-pouch baby, called joey, and its mother. That covers a great deal of both physical and emotional closeness between carer and joey. However, that closeness has to be slowly withdrawn later on, in order for the joey to be able to survive on its own once released back into the wild and not suffer from further shock from losing its substitute mother, as well. Also, being familial animals kangaroos thrive better being raised and released in groups. Therefore, it is established practice to buddy up joeys of similar age and developmental stages and rear them alongside each other.

Kangaroo Joeys in their surrogate pouches at a local Wildlife Shelter.
Kangaroo Joeys in their surrogate pouches at a local Wildlife Shelter. They are raised in a group to ensure their wellbeing both during rehabilitation and after release back in the wild.

Observation and interpretation can help us determine what´s best for the animals we care for, but being limited to our human experiences, misperceptions are frequent and even the best intentions can prove quite harmful.

For instance, people try to rear joeys unauthorised in their home. They feed them cow´s milk and humanize them, ignorant of the negative effects this can have on the joey. For one, kangaroos cannot tolerate lactose and are likely to suffer severe disabilities from exposure to the wrong diet, the most frequent being cataracts, blindness or even brain damage. A high degree of humanisation will make any wildlife unfit to survive in the wild, not recognising domestic pets and humans as dangerous.

Thus, when making decisions on behalf of the voiceless, we always have to ask ourselves whether our decisions are truly in the interest of the creature in question. The practice of anthropomorphising can help us uncover the needs of those we care for, but it is to be used with caution and self-reflection, if it is to serve those who cannot speak for themselves.

 

Footnotes:

[1] Nussbaum 2001: 342.
[2] About Anthropomorphism, cf. Sezgin 2014: 23-29.

 

References:

Nussbaum, Martha C. (2001): Upheavals of Thought. The Intelligence of Emotions. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, New York, Oakleigh, Madrid, Cape Town.

Sezgin, Hilal (2014): Artgerecht ist nur die Freiheit. Eine Ethik für Tiere oder Warum wir umdenken müssen. Verlag C.H.Beck: München.

Modern Speciesism – Anthropocentrism in Conservation

“Plans to protect air and water, wilderness and wildlife are in fact plans to protect man.” – Stewart Udall

In my first few posts I have looked at human-nonhuman animal relations by introducing theoretical concepts such as anthropocentrism and speciesism. In the following sections, I want to apply these theories to the realms of experience in fields of human/non-human animal interactions in our contemporary world.

Over the past few months, I have experienced various human-nonhuman animal encounters whilst working in a wildlife rehabilitation facility in Victoria, Australia.

While the primary objective of such conservationist activities appears to be an altruistic one – preserving eco-systems and diversity of species – I had to note a lot of inconsistencies within this field. Often, it seems that even the best intentions leave a negative impact on the handled creatures in question or that any possible successes are made void by other, equally claimed as conservationist, actions.

Thus, I cannot help but wonder whether there is indeed a genuine interest to protect wildlife and our natural resources, or whether all such efforts are condemned to be anthropocentrictic and, therefore, serve solely man´s ends, after all?

There are many institutions concerned with animal welfare in Victoria. For instance, some review husbandry conditions for both stock animals and pets. Other authorities are specifically commissioned to ensure the welfare of wildlife, enforcing legislation regarding environmental conservation, such as the Wildlife Act 1975 [1]. Sadly, to my personal experiences, these practices often fall short in dealing with the complex situations that arise in human-nonhuman animal encounters in the expanding metropolitan region of Melbourne and surrounding country.

For example, it is the same department that organises wildlife rehabilitation authorising and overseeing wildlife shelter operators and carers, that also issues any permits to kill members of the same species concerned, sometimes even in the same areas, making the rehabilitation of such wildlife in these areas ironically vain.

Gang Gang Cockatoo
Male Gang Gang Cockatoo
Yellow-tailed black cockatoos
Yellow-Tailed Black Cockatoos
Eclectus Parrot
Female Eclectus Parrot

Also, while the government offers grants to wildlife shelters for the care and husbandry of wildlife in rehabilitation, they themselves hold permits to cull any number of the same wildlife. These culls are often aimed at Eastern grey kangaroos and other macropod species, but not exclusive to them, involving even the killing of vulnerable and endangered species.

Typically, these events occur where urban development has confined habitats to the extent that they can no longer support the life of a population or the co-existence of several species. Although these creatures are in trouble due to human activity, i.e. urbanisation, road traffic and intensive farming, they are often demonised in the course of these activities, calling for their removal out of the areas concerned.

Kangaroos on farmland. Fences and roads keep them from migrating through their natural habitats.
Kangaroos on farmland. Fences and roads keep them from migrating through their natural habitats.

There is a striking ambivalence inherent in the relationship of the Australian public with their native wildlife. On one hand, the unique and ancient species are cherished and treasured, decorating the Australian coat of arms and featuring in tourism brochures and nature documentaries across the world, but at the same time their presence close to human living spheres is sometimes perceived as nuisance. They an integral part of the Australian identity, as well as a constant cause for dismay, for instance when involved in road accidents or due to competition on living space.

The Australian Coat of Arms featuring kangaroo and emu.
Frequent accidents involving kangaroos occur on contry roads due to draught and confined habitat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To me, it seems that the nonhuman dwellers of Australia, that have inhabited the land for millions of years before James Cook ever set foot on the East coast, provide a source of identity construction of the human self. Without them the Australian people could not be what they are, but at the same time, they are increasingly neglected for the sake of consolidation of the Australian way of (human) life, often under the pretence of conservationism. That is, if we were to truly preserve the Australian wildlife, human activity ought to cease from their lands. This not being a likely prospect, I am afraid, conservation as a whole is doomed to remain contradictory. One could say conservation is overall an effort to preserve human life and, therefore, anthropocentric.

 

Footnotes:

[1] See a fulltext of the act here.

 

References:

Chief Parliamentary Counsel of Victoria (2014):  Wildlife Act 1975. Authorised Version No. 100. available under:
http://www.legislation.vic.gov.au/domino/Web_Notes/LDMS/LTObject_Store/ltobjst8.nsf/DDE300B846EED9C7CA257616000A3571/84C427066CB742E2CA257D09000E89E7/$FILE/75-8699aa100%20authorised.pdf, last checked: 26/o5/2016.

Image source:

https://www.itsanhonour.gov.au/coat-arms/

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