Endangered species and speciesism

I do think when it comes to endangered species, there’s also the unspoken element of speciesism in that some animals get saved because they’re considered cute, charismatic or well-favoured among humans and sometimes there’s a tendency to ignore animals that are even more endangered. The Ethiopian wolf population has declined significantly and down to the hundreds so there’s going to be a loss of genetic diversity but there are millions of dogs out there and most of them are mongrels so genetically and numerically speaking, they’re doing fine.

In fact, dogs are the third worst invasive species and if invasive species do outcompete native wildlife (the Ethiopian wolf’s only found in Ethiopia but dogs are all over Africa), then this has dire consequences for conserving Ethiopian wolves at all. Dogs are invasive in that not only do they hunt endangered species and risk endangered several others (African striped weasels in South Africa, Barbary macaques in Morocco and vervet monkeys in Uganda) but also spread diseases that kill other animals (lions and hyenas in Tanzania). This makes the situation of the Ethiopian wolves even more precarious.

As for striped and spotted hyenas, these two are nearly universally linked to witchcraft throughout Africa and South Asia that impedes whatever attempts at conserving their populations. Dogs and cats are also linked to witchcraft in Africa but only to a degree in tandem depending on the country and ethnicity (cats are linked to witchcraft in Southern Nigeria but tolerated and owned in Northern Nigeria due to religious differences), though many cats and dogs are owned in several African countries sometimes for practical purposes like pest control and some pest animals turn out to be endangered species so this complicates matter.

To put it this way, cats were brought to Cyprus for pest control this had noble intentions but who knows if a certain snake species went extinct because of that. Likewise with dogs, they could also be brought in for pest control but also risk rendering another species extinct at their expense. Dogs are beloved, certain snake species aren’t even if they’re more ecologically innocent in that they never become invasive and are relentlessly persecuted by humans. So there’s a better argument for speciesism, especially if some snakes have a worse reputation than dogs do.

The same could be said about amphibians, where some of them do inspire revulsion (as my father put it) and that complicates any attempts at conserving their populations when thought about this way. The mascot of World Wide Fund is a panda, not an endangered toad. That shows you the power of the charismatic megafauna, which can be detrimental to less cute species but there are attempts at addressing this when it comes to the Ugly Animal Preservation Society.

To summarise, some animals get prioritised not just for their closeness to humans but also their cuteness whereas others are despised for being pests even if they’re highly endangered and some are stigmatised for it, which complicates conservation efforts.

Pest Control In the Ancient World

When there’s smoke, there’s fire and when there are pests, there are attempts at controlling or culling their populations. Dogs, being one of the earliest domesticated animals especially in Eastern Eurasia would’ve been one of the first animals used for pest control as evidenced in China that at some point dogs were used to hunt rats in ships (the thing cats would do centuries later). I suspect that in Eastern Eurasia, prior to the arrival of cats mongooses (at least in South Asia) and dogs would’ve been the go-for animals used for pest control and even today just as there are dogs who hunt mice and rats at will, there are people who make them do these.

Even recently, there’s a report of people using dogs to hunt rats in New York City which’s close to how dogs were used in ancient times when one considers the absence of cats outside of Africa and Anatolia in the ancient world. Ferrets would’ve also been used for pest control as well, perhaps a little longer in Southern Europe (that’s if we go by surviving documents from Ancient Greece and Italy/Rome) than cats though they never became that popular for some reason. But I also think it’s ambiguous since whatever gale meant could’ve been either a ferret, its smaller relative the least weasel or even a dog used for pest control (but that proves my point about dogs used for rat control).

If the ferret’s domesticated from the Eurasian polecat, its range mostly exists in Europe so if it’s rare in Africa then Africans would’ve used cats instead and Egypt’s the country where the second wave of cat domestication took place (the first wave took place in modern Turkey and Armenia). While cats could’ve been used for pest control in Armenia and possibly deified to some extent, Egypt’s much better understood and preserved so we get a good idea of how their attitudes to cats evolved. Whilst not every African necessarily likes cats and it does depend on the country, ethnicity and individual but if some contemporary African countries are any indication, cats are still used for pest control.

Sometimes in tandem with dogs if a study in Eswatini’s any indication, though it’s possible that using both ferrets and dogs to cull vermin would’ve produced similar results in Southern Europe to say the least. Or mongooses and dogs in ancient India, which again makes sense as there are Indians who do own mongooses for pest control. Whenever pests come about, there will always be animals deployed to cull their populations.

Ferrets in ancient Greece

Ferrets are these long-bodied, short-legged animals used for hunting and pest control though to a lesser extent than cats and dogs since they’re not that as popular except for a time being in ancient Greece and Rome where they’re first domesticated and used for a little longer than cats. Cat ownership and domestication pretty much first occurred in Anatolia (and likely made a big impact on Armenian culture and mythology as far as surviving recorded mythology goes) and later on in Africa via Egypt.

I have a nagging feeling that based on extant African countries and populations that still use cats for pest control (Ghana, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Togo, Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique) that would’ve been the case in Egypt as well. But in Southern Europe, ferrets and weasels took the cat’s place as evidenced by surviving documents and mythology where they’re used for pest control and it’s even possible that dogs could’ve been used for the same purpose.

Dogs have been used for pest control as well, so it’s likely that any animal used for pest control could’ve been either a ferret, a weasel or a dog. When it comes to links to witchcraft via the character of Hecate, both ferrets and dogs are linked and that’s also the case in contemporary Aka Pygmy folklore where dogs are the guises taken by witches as well as hunting aids (this would’ve resulted in the characters of Hecate and Artemis in ancient Greece by the way).

This is also more extensively focused in a book called Women and Weasels (or is it Weasels and Women) but it’s not for free, so I’m going by the actual Greek sources themselves to know that weasels were the guises of witches. This would’ve extended to ferrets to some extent, though I don’t know much about it. But it’s probable to some extent.

The former Greek words for weasel are gale and iktis, the current Greek word for weasel is nyfitsa (derived from the Greek word for bride), the story goes is that the weasel was a bride to be which has a habit of destroying wedding dresses unless if pleased with honey and that there’s another story where a weasel falls in love with a man and becomes a woman but still acts like a weasel.

The dangers of anthropomorphism and why it’s not equivalent to the prejudices people face

When it comes to people anthropomorphising animals, some people would liken the plight of animals to the plight of marginalised people while that might be true to some extent they’re not always exactly equivalent to each other. While wolves and dogs are subject to discrimination to some extent, it’s not the equivalent to what black and Asian people go through. For instance, take Asian people and wolves for instance.

Asian people are held to be model minority, submissive (especially if they’re female and additionally if they’re oversexed and objectified), carriers of coronavirus, good at maths/science and martial arts, have small penises (if they’re male), heartless seducers (both male and female, male at some point), not athletic (not skilled in most sports), feminine (this disregards any Asian tomboy in existence) and perpetual foreigners despite those in the diaspora staying in America and Europe for several generations or so.

Most of them are things wolves and dogs aren’t subjected to, dogs even form the majority of pets in the world and while submission in dogs is earned, the submissive stereotype is practically a high standard most Asian women can’t live up to. According to a thread in the forum Lipstick Alley, the Asian women they personally knew were the opposite: bossy, aggressive, unruly and violent. Outside of furry circles, these are usually things not associated with dogs and wolves.

Dogs and wolves aren’t discriminated for being carriers of a disease (not to the same extent that blacks ans Asians are subjected to, with regards to ebola and coronavirus), wearing their hair in a certain way (which’s something black people are subjected to), speaking in a certain way (blacks as well as anybody who speaks in a minority language) and outside of furry circles, they aren’t objectified in the same way blacks and Asians are.

In the sense that among gay men, Asian men are stereotyped as small penis and submissive but black men are stereotyped as promiscuous, well-endowed and tops (a stereotype not many black men live up to and some gay blacks have issues with). As for blacks, they’re stereotyped as gangsters, thugs, well-endowed (if male), promiscuous, unintelligent, tops (the ones who penetrate), mammies, Sapphires, strong black women, masculine (some of the black women I know are feminine), less infantilised (unless if infantilised by liberals) and larger and more supernaturally powerful than whites.

However, if they’re positive stereotypes they aren’t just high standards they can’t live up to but also underestimate how bad their mental health is. There are black women struggling with depression, anxiety and even schizophrenia which goes the same with black men. Likewise, there are gay black men who take issue with the well-endowed top stereotype (some of them are bottoms and others are sides as in the former want to be penetrated, the other doesn’t want to be penetrated in any way) and the black people I know are either celibate or single.

Practically not promiscuous in any way. While wolves and dogs are linked to promiscuity in some cultures, it’s not universally shared by countries and people depending on the language and the like. But stereotypes about blacks and Asians are near-universal in the Western world and to a lesser extent, Asia and Africa with either one or the other. Black people are even discriminated for wearing their hair and speaking in a certain way, that’s something dogs and wolves are spared from.

The only known prejudices that wolves and dogs are universally subjected to are predation (especially if they get targeted by hunters, ranchers and farmers alike), witchcraft, stealing food and filth (which gets dogs poisoned in countries like Germany). While hundehass/hatred of dogs is a problem in Germany and Russia, I still think whatever dogs and wolves are subjected to aren’t always the same as what ethnic and cultural minorities are subjected to.

Animation’s advantage

When it comes to the casting for the film ‘House of Gucci’, surviving members of the Gucci family (the one behind the Gucci fashion brand) felt that at least some of the casting was inaccurate in that a handful of the actors don’t resemble the relatives they knew best. Aldo Gucci was said to be handsome, tall and blue-eyed whereas Al Pacino is short with dark eyes, to the point where I think an animated Gucci family would do the family justice. In that we could get an Aldo Gucci who looked the way he did in real life and a character designer can and will churn out interesting caricatures of the family, if only an animated Gucci film got green lit and with the family’s permission and consent it could outdo the live action film in some regards.

Likewise, it’s possible for a voiceover artist to do a convincing impersonation of what the Gucci relatives sounded like, if only there was surviving audio and film footage of that. Again, that would be animation’s big advantage over live action where it’s possible to get a more accurate or truer depiction of the Gucci family in a way casting big name celebrities to play the characters don’t. Who knows what Aldo Gucci sounded like, but a cartoon portrayal of him would be closer to what he looked like in a way casting Al Pacino in the role wouldn’t and couldn’t. Who knows which voiceover artist would do a good impression of Patrizia Reggiani? The sky’s the limit in animation, some of which has big advantages over live action. You could get away with killing a character in animation, whereas in live action it’s not without its problems with regards to whatever mistake Mr Alex/Alec Baldwin did.

A comic book adaptation of the Gucci book (whatever it’s actually called, I can’t remember the actual title) would have a big advantage over a live action film especially with regards to what the Gucci actually looked like though the disadvantage would be that what Aldo Gucci sounded like would be all in the reader’s and writer’s heads. Only his granddaughter knew what he sounded like. But even then, it’s still advantageous over live action when it comes to portraying the deceased Gucci relatives as they actually were.

Infantilising animals

While a good number of pet owners do infantilise their adult pets, vegans and animal rights activists do have a disturbing habit of infantilising animals including the ones they want to save in industries that don’t always mistreat them such as milk and wool. I mean they keep on seeing them as helpless babies, it’s like they never see them as consenting adults if they’re so concerned about making them equal to humans.

There are black people who don’t want to be infantilised by white liberals, why can’t vegans and animal rights activists not infantilise some working animals? If vegetarians are around 40 % or higher in India and possibly Nepal, you could easily find vegetarian farmers there and there are farmers who don’t mistreat their cows, sheep, goats and horses in any way. In some cases, if they want animals to be equal to humans they should also be held accountable as well.

It’s like dealing with a misbehaving child where a parent may take away something to show them consequences for their actions, but I don’t think not many of them consider the same with cats and dogs which are both invasive species. If a human’s held accountable for attacking endangered species, so should a dog or a cat if it does the same thing too. It would be rather speciesist to shame humans for hunting endangered species when cats and dogs do the exact same thing.

Think about it. Sadly, only a few vegans are aware about how bad invasive species can get and I think their ideology about not wanting to be speciesist is to blame for this in that you can’t objectively realise the problem cats and dogs cause to the environment without being shamed in any way or in some cases, blame humans for extinctions when in reality they’re not the sole cause for it.

A species could be just as likely to be wiped out by cats and dogs as they are by humans (dogs have caused 11 or 13 species to go extinct). Biologists are well-aware of this and dogs have been recently confirmed and quantified as the third most destructive invasive animal after rats and cats. This is hard science we’re talking about. Not that there aren’t any vegans who’re into science but that involves being objective about it.

Hence, why it’s so rare to find vegans who know the problem with invasive species.

Good intentions ruining things

When it comes to the introduction of American minks in Europe, they were introduced for the purpose of providing fur to people. While I don’t necessarily approve of using animals for fur, the problem is that when these creatures are freed they wreck havoc on the environment by endangering native species through predation. The water vole, a semiaquatic rodent, is Britain’s most endangered mammal and some minks are small enough to hunt them down.

Freeing American minks from fur farms is a nice goal, but this also has them destroying the environment through predation that I think it’s much more sensible to not bring them over to Europe in the first place. It might be possible to use American minks for more practical and less destructive ends such as making them hunt vermin as one man (Mink Man and his minkery) does. But then again, mink ownership’s not that popular and ferret ownership’s already not that popular either.

The only real difference’s that ferrets have a longer history of being domesticated especially in the Mediterranean where they’re used for not only hunting but also pest control. That doesn’t mean ferrets are more saintly as they’re known to be an invasive species in Ireland and New Zealand, wrecking havoc on native wildlife and reproducing there (though I think dogs are even more destructive than ferrets because there’s more of them around).

If I’m not mistaken, ferrets were introduced with the goal of hunting down rabbits but they ended up hunting native birds so you have attempts at culling them in New Zealand. New Zealand aims to be predator free in 2050, so it’s finding ways of exterminating vermin. But if I’m not mistaken, there are people who think that ferrets are unfairly targeted which complicates some people’s goals of having a predator free New Zealand.

Likewise, I think the major barrier to realising that dogs are an invasive species is probably people’s own emotional attachment to them even when there’s plenty of evidence that dogs do negatively impact the environment through pathogens (this killed off lions and hyenas in some African countries) and predation. You have dogs killing wildlife, eating sea turtle eggs and giving diseases to endangered species such as Ethiopian wolves.

With Ethiopian wolves, there’s not a lot of them around whereas there are far more dogs out there so the argument that dogs are an invasive species in the entire African continent makes the most sense. They’re deliberately introduced by humans from trade with Israel and used for good purposes like pest control and guarding, but they got out of hand whenever they prey on native wildlife such as African striped weasels, Barbary macaques and vervet monkeys.

They even spread diseases that endanger lions, hyenas and Ethiopian wolves so the argument’s strong in this one. Many of the same things can be said of domestic cats in Europe and Asia, being introduced from Africa and Anatolia. These two are the most commonly owned and used carnivorous mammals and they’re very destructive to native wildlife.

There’s even a case study by Karen Lupo where hunting dogs ended up attacking animals other than game so the potential to be an invasive species is there despite the good intentions. When it comes to introducing invasive species, sometimes the road to hell’s paved with good intentions that gets out of hand.

Pathway to domestication and commensalism

When it comes to cats and dogs, the path to domestication may not be so simple even if it were deliberate (in the sense of being used for pest control and guarding) as it involved a degree of commensalism in the sense of living off of humans without being so close to them if it weren’t for the fact that dogs are even allowed to roam in some places and cultures. Monkeys might be similar to some extent as they do live off of humans when it comes to food and there are cases where monkeys and especially some macaque species are deliberately domesticated to get coconuts off of trees. Ferrets are deliberately domesticated for hunting and pest control, but stray and feral populations only exist in islands and they’re not that commonly owned as pets either.

As for sheep, cattle/oxen, horses, goats and donkeys they’re a class of animals that are not only deliberately domesticated but also not allowed to stray in any way because nobody wants their food source gone. Sheep, horses, cattle and goats are domesticated not only for meat and dairy but in other cases they’re kept for ploughing soil, hence horsepower and for driving vehicles at a time when there wasn’t much sophisticated machinery which was the case for many millennia and centuries. (Cars, buses, aeroplanes and trains came recently.) Even today, some people use cattle and horses to drive their vehicles though this is rare and horses have found a new use when it comes to racing.

There are several pathways to domestication, whether if it’s the manner of commensalism (mice and rats most of the time), deliberate domestication with a degree of commensalism (ferrets, cats, dogs and pigs) and proper domestication (cattle, horses, buffaloes, sheep, goats).

Why village dogs exist but not village sheep

As I said before, dog domestication may’ve been much messier than realised that’s if it weren’t for villagers allowing their dogs to roam that’s when you realise that may’ve been the case in prehistory but the equivalent doesn’t exist en masse for livestock and horses, as I think they’re likelier to be (over)protected in a way that dogs aren’t and for a much longer time as nobody wants their natural resources to be gone, hence kidnap originally meant that goats and goat kids would be stolen by thieves. You have goatherds, shepherds, swineherds and cowherds but not dogherds as dog meat’s not that popular as beef, pork, chicken meat and goat meat are.

Likewise, the sheep equivalent to a village dog doesn’t exist en masse because not too many people let their sheep roam in fear of the natural resource being gone. Not that they’re any less careless with dogs but it seemed for a long time if some non-Western societies are any indication, there weren’t any fences and leashes to speak of and it’s far likelier for owners to allow their dogs to roam about for better or worse with regards to wildlife predation. You have owned dogs roaming about in villages, compounds and farms but sheep don’t roam a lot outside of farms and the like as they’d be watched over by watchful pastoralists at nearly all times. Not to mention that until recently, there were a lot more practical uses for sheep than for dogs.

The sheep, when not kept for meat, could be kept for milk and wool so you get wool clothing, sheep milk and sheep cheeses whereas dogs were (and still are in some countries and cultures) kept for guarding, hunting and pest control and that’s usually about it. Not that dogs lacked further practical uses before, in some European and especially British cultures they’re kept for making houses warmer by being in some kind of turnspit hence the turnspit dogs of yore. But then again, it’s not that widespread a practise and you’d still have many more keeping dogs for guarding and pest control than they would be with guiding blind people and detecting criminals.

Not that dogs weren’t kept for lifting heavy stuff, but that’s more commonly associated with horses, cows and buffaloes hence the word horsepower denoted horses kept for plowing and lifting vehicles. Again, feral horses do exist but the horse equivalent to village dogs (owned, semi-feral dogs) don’t exist en masse as horses are used for things like plowing and racing. Not that dogs aren’t kept for racing, but in non-Western countries dogs would be kept for hunting and guarding while cows, goats and sheep are kept for meat, plowing, wool, leather and dairy. The latter are kept for things very much needed without the aid of sophisticated machinery and poisons, until recently.

It would be parsimonious to say that dogs have more in common with monkeys, cats, rats and ferrets than they would with sheep, cows, goats and pigs in some regards because with the former substantial semi-feral populations do exist and they wreck havoc on wildlife in addition to being used for scientific experiments more often (beagles are commonly used for scientific experiments). Besides, working monkeys do exist and they’re used to gather coconuts in some countries like Malaysia and Thailand for instance. Thailand even trains monkeys to catch coconuts, likewise cats, dogs and ferrets are used for pest control and dogs and ferrets are used for hunting.

Feral and stray ferrets do exist, especially in islands like Guernsey, Ireland and New Zealand for instance. (But I think they’re not as common as cats and dogs are, in fact there are probably more stray dogs than there are stray ferrets for instance.) Stray sheep do exist, but they’re never going to be as common as stray dogs and cats are even if there are current attempts at curbing the latter’s populations. It’s more of a quirk of the way they’re used, owned and raised which explains why it’s easier for dogs to roam about in villages, slums, forests, compounds and farms but not sheep (let alone for a long time).

A less idealised version of dog domestication

I still think that when it comes to dog domestication, it’s actually less straight forward than what’s usually hypothesised if given evidence about village dog where they do have owners but their owners let them roam about that may’ve been the case with prehistoric dogs. It’s not always that the owners are careless but rather the circumstances don’t always allow for stricter ownership practises, which was the case for many decades, if not centuries given the lack of fences and leashes. Actually some cultures don’t have much of a concept for leashes and fences so owned dogs would’ve roamed at any time especially in the countryside and even today dogs still roam to an extent in rural areas.

That’s not to say they’re necessarily careless and there are people who do care for stray cats and dogs by feeding them, just as some do with feral pigeons. However there’s another reason and circumstance why dogs aren’t domesticated in the same way as sheep and goats are: food. There are people who do eat cats and dogs but they’re not in the majority and it’s not a big industry either, but plenty of people have sheep and goats for meat and others have them for milk, dairy and wool. You’d have to be real attentive to keep them from straying, otherwise that food source is gone which’s practically the same with cows, buffaloes and horses to a lesser extent (horse meat and horse milk).

That’s not to say dogs are useless, far from it but being left to stray would involve a degree of commensalism and it would be greater than what’s done to livestock and horses because they’re still used as beasts of burden so people would keep an eye on them to keep them from being stolen. Hence all the goatherds, shepherds and cowherds and the word kidnap originally meant that goat kids were taken away by force. When it comes to owned dogs straying a bit in the countryside, a degree of commensalism would’ve happened anyways as they’re not commonly kept for food and wool the same way sheep and goats are.