Culture

Examples from Modern Times

Cultural anthropologists have historically illustrated how funerary beliefs and practices provide insight into people’s thinking about life on earth, and our relationships with other people, nature and other animals. This section explores how such beliefs apply to funerary practices involving animals, with implications for:

  • how we view our relationships with animals,
    • their roles in our lives,
    • the discrepancies in how people treat animal bodies of those who are loved vs. those considered ‘food’ or ‘material,’ and
  • how we relate to ‘nature’ and its role in our everyday lives.

We will also illustrate how some consider burying the remains of a beloved animal in a ‘whole-family burial plot’ as a beautiful conclusion to earthly life, while others might sadly regard such a practice as an offense.

Privacy

We are the first generation to behold the Internet and experience the many ways it alters our world and lives. In just a couple of decades, privacy has become an increasingly rare phenomenon. A few have shared extremely private matters of the heart – their experiences with natural burial. We thank them for their courage and vision in sharing these stories with the rest of us.

Examples

Below are stories of pet burials as well as those about animals who would not fall into the category ‘pet’. We will post an exploration of the term ‘pet’ in the future, but for now – in this section – we include stories of time-honored tributes to animals who were loved, respected, and considered either family or friend.

Martha Stewart’s dog Paw PawBurying Paw Paw

Read Martha Stewart’s moving tribute to her beloved dog, Paw Paw, in her 2008 blog. At right, Francesca and Sharkey paying last respects to Paw Paw before his burial. Martha writes, “April 12th, 2008 was an early spring day.  It was the day Paw Paw was laid to rest amidst the crocus and greening grass.”

Dian Fossey & Digit

Graves of Dian Fossey and DigitRwanda. Famed primatologist, Dian Fossey, filmed a moving burial of her beloved friend, Digit. A young silverback mountain gorilla, Digit was killed by poachers on the last day of 1977 while defending himself and the other 13 members of his group who were able to escape. After Fossey was murdered in 1985, she was laid to rest beside Digit’s grave in the burial ground she established at her Karisoke Research Center, behind her cabin (now cared for by the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International).

[Spoiler Alert] In the final scene of the 1988 film, Gorillas in the Mist, Fossey’s tracker and companion, Sembagare, is shown arranging rocks around Digit’s and Fossey’s graves in such a way as to unite them in a single family plot.

Titus

Men digging Titus' graveRwanda. A more recent gorilla burial (September 2009) has been documented by the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International.  Karisoke staff and researchers provide a loving burial for Titus in the same burial ground where Dian Fossey rests.

Dorothy at Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center

Cameroon. “More than a dozen grief-stricken chimpanzees joined in an extraordinary expression of mourning as an elder in their family was laid to rest at a West African animal sanctuary” NY Post. A follow-up story provides the details of Dorothy’s captivity and deliverance to the Sanaga-Young Chimpanzee Rescue Center. The original story was presented by National Geographic (10/09).

Learn more about A touching video showing the family of chimps gathering to look upon their beloved Dorothy at her burial. Set to the song Somewhere Over the Rainbow” as sung by Israel “Iz” Ka’ano’i Kamakawiwo’Ole. (Note: We could only find the video on GodTube.)

More to come …

updated October 24, 2014

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