Animals, Society and Culture Lecture 4: Domestication 2013-14
Native American folktale • The earth trembled and a great rift appeared, separating the first man and woman from the rest of the animal kingdom. As the chasm grew deeper and wider, all other creatures, afraid for their lives, returned to the forest – except for the dog, who after much consideration, leapt the perilous rift to stay with the humans on the other side. His love for humanity was greater than his bond for other creatures, he explained, and he willingly forfeited his place in paradise to prove it. (de Melo, 2012:84)
Cats – Middle East – 8,500 BC (Egyptians) Goats – Middle East – 10,000 BC Pigs – Middle East, China – 7,000 BC Cattle – India, Middle East, Africa – 8,000 BC Chickens – India, Southeast Asia – 6,000 BC Guinea pigs – Andes (Latin America) – 5,000 BC Donkeys – North East Africa – 4,000 BC Ducks – China – 4,000 BC Horses – Kazakhstan – 3,600 BC Llamas – Peru 3,500 BC Bactrian camels – Southern Russia – 3,000 BC Dromedary camels – Saudi Arabia – 3,000 BC Honey bees – Egypt – 3,000 BC Water buffalos – Pakistan – 2,500 BC Yaks – Tibet – 2,500 BC Alpacas – Peru – 1,500 BC Turkeys – Mexico – 1,000 BC (deMelo, 2012:86) Dates of domestication (approx)
Lecture outline • Domestication as control • Shift from trust to domination • Co-evolution
Juliet Clutton-Brocke • Definition ‘the keeping of animals in captivity by a human community that maintains total control over their breeding, organisation of territory, and food supply’ (Clutton-Brocke, 2007:71). • Taming of individual animals – natural selection, artificial selection • In her view the process of incorporation of animals into the domus – the homestead, household - ‘the social structure of a human community’ involves them becoming ‘objects of human ownership, inheritance, purchase, and exchange’ (C-B, 2007:72).
Suitability for domestication • Wolves are social animals, live in a pack, cooperate in the hunt, are mobile • Livestock animals also tended to have certain characteristics – they were social, tendency to scavenge, rapid maturity rate, reasonable size, calm disposition, ability to breed in captivity, gregarious nature, willingness to live with others in close quarters, hierarchical social life. These characteristics make them amenable to living with humans in exchange for feeding, care, protection.
From trust to domination • Hunter-gathering to pastoralism • Collecting to producing • Equality to inequality • Mesolithic period – in Europe 10,000 to 5,000 BC, between Paleolithic and Neolithic
Revolutionary change • with domestication of livestock animals ‘the primary economic activity of our ancestors moved from food collection to food production. This change is among the most monumental in human – and animal – history’ (de Melo, 2012: 86)
Collection and production • Marx and Engels argued that production set humankind apart from other animals, humans ‘begin to distinguish themselves from animals as soon as they begin to produce their means of subsistence’ (M and E, 1977:42). • Collection of food is what animals do, production is what humans do, this same distinction drawn between hunter-gatherers and all other forms of socio-economic organisation. • Production involves the transformation of ‘nature’ by humans, collection doesn’t.
Trust • Combines autonomy and dependency • ‘To trust someone is to act with that person in mind, in the hope and expectation that they will do likewise – responding in ways favourable to you – so long as you do nothing to curb there autonomy to act otherwise.’ (13) • Animals in environment of hunter act with the hunter in mind – they present themselves to him (14)
Domination • Obligation • Animals not seen as having capacity to reciprocate • Animals don’t control their own destiny – this control is in hands of humans. Herdsman takes life and death decisions, controls welfare, he is their ‘protector, guardian and executioner’ (16).
Animals as subjects • Pastoralists, like hunter-gatherers, think of animals as ‘endowed with powers of sentience and autonomous action which have either to be respected, as in hunting, or overcome through superior force, as in pastoralism’ (18)
Egalitarian to inegalitarian • Hunter-gatherer societies are egalitarian – marked by relations of trust between humans and animals and between humans and humans • For pastoralists social relations are different, in place of egalitarian relations of sharing, relations of dominance and subordination between herding leaders and their assistants emerge.
Co-evolution • Animals are attracted to ‘the highly modified environment that surrounds humans’ which ‘must provide shelter, protection from predators, and access to foodstuffs. Initial behaviour modification, such as diminished flight response and begging, eventually leads to genetic modification through differential selection, but only if the humans occupy the site for long enough for breeding to occur in the affected species, or if (like the dog) it is capable of travelling to new sites with humans.’ (Leach, 2007:89) • Leach, H M (2007) ‘Selection and the unforeseen consequences of domestication’ in Where the wild things are now, eds Cassidy and Mullin.
Dogs • Coppinger, R and L (2004) Dogs: a new understanding of canine origin, behaviour and evolution, Crosskeys • ‘To postulate artificial selection among wild wolves by Mesolithic people, starting with puppies form the wolf dens, with the goal of producing domestic dogs, is wishful thinking’ (Coppinger and Coppinger, 2004:50). • Capture a wolf, tame the wolf, train the wolf, breed the wolf to other tame, trained wolves, and, presto! a domesticated dog
Alternative hypothesis • People create a niche, the village • Some wolves invade the new niche and gain access to a new food source • Those wolves that can use the new niche are genetically predisposed to show less ‘flight distance’ than those who don’t • Those ‘tamer’ wolves gain selective advantage in the new niche over the wilder ones (Coppinger and Coppinger, 2004:57) • Russian silver foxes http://cbsu.tc.cornell.edu/ccgr/behaviour/Index.htm
Natural selection • ‘the artificial selection theory requires early people to embark intentionally on a long-term wolf-taming and breeding project, which is difficult to do, and perhaps impossible to do well enough to have any evolutionary change take place. The natural selection theory doesn’t require people to do anything other than live in villages.’ (Coppinger and Coppinger, 2004:66)
Domestication ongoing • 1st stage – affected humans and commensals – unconscious selection • 2nd stage – affected animals and plants, unintentional and conscious selection • 3rd stage – breeding for certain traits, artificial selection • 4th stage – advanced molecular biology
1. Domestication as control – a process initiated by humans leading to control over the lives of plants and animals and their becoming property. • 2. Domestication as a shift in human-animal relations from trust to domination, from seeing animals as active agents and equal to humans to seeing them as less than equal and therefore to be dominated • 3. Domestication as co-evolution – not a process under human control, neither initially or now because of its unforeseen consequences. Humans as well as animals and plants changed in the process.