This night before Thanksgiving, I saw a stunning and quite surprising film on PBS – part of its Nature series. Entitled My life as a turkey, it chronicles the hatching, growing, learning, exploring and socialization of two groups of sibling wild turkeys and their adopted man-mom, naturalist Joe Hutto (played by Jeff Palmer). Remarkably,
Joe was “born into a hardcore turkey hunting family and culture.” Fascinating
and utterly moving, this film illustrates a somewhat enviable experience of living with young turkeys (‘poults’):
These animals were telling me how to live my life; also, we [humans] do not have a privileged access to reality.
Stories of human-turkey relationships only provide greater credence to the families any of us may form with other creatures – dogs, cats, rabbits, rats – all of whom deserve our affection and rescue from otherwise terrible ends by human hands.
The scene that prompted this post: two of the birds had died, and we see Joe digging their graves. Continue reading →
Marketing bacon and hot dogs with coffins? Sometimes we’re tempted to say that certain things just don’t warrant comment. However, students of popular culture, animal studies and/or death studies may find this post particularly useful when illustrating cultural values and ideas about animals, food, death and humor.
Below are two examples of businesses mixing the accoutrements of human funerals with meat; by so doing, they focus our attention on the particular products they sell – bacon and hot dogs – and the bodies they come from. The unexamined words, images and materials that we use and encounter shape our cultural values, experiences and understanding of the world, and can sometimes create great distance among people, as well as between humans and other species.
Just before April 1 (a.k.a., April Fool’s Day), a news item about a new bacon-themed coffin received a fair amount of media attention with many respondents inquiring if it was “real” or a hoax. It was created and marketed by Seattle-based J&D Foods (although more accurately, the coffin markets them). They explain that it was created for “the bacon fan who loves bacon to death.” (see video below) Continue reading →
Animal Death. June 13, 2012, University of Sydney Camperdown Campus. This symposium brings together cross-disciplinary voices on the topic of Animal Death. It seeks papers that explore how animal and human death are conceptualized, diverge, differ and also connect in profound ways. Papers could explore issues of sacrifice, “necessary” expendability, utility, species extinction, human survival, climate change and conservation. They are particularly interested in human and animal relationships around the nature of death. These include (but not limited to) issues of grief (for the dead companion animal), euthanasia, rituals of slaughter, vivisection, cultures of denial, the issue of who is and isn’t attributed a soul, and post-death belief systems. Please send 200 word abstracts to Dr Jay Johnston by January 16, 2012. Panels of up to three speakers are welcome. Continue reading →