Tag Archives: The Human

How Oliver the Justice Dog shows us what it means to be human

I was somewhat surprised this week to see a post on social media announcing that a dog has received a staff ID card at Canterbury Christ Church University (CCCU).

While I have no problem with dogs on campus, or indeed the work of Justice Support Dogs International (JSDI), I do find the fact that a dog should receive a human staff ID card somewhat unsettling. This is because it serves to further enshrine a biopolitical discourse surrounding the human and the animal, and goes to show the power of major institutions to dictate the terms on which we define what constitutes the human and the animal.

While some readers may find the news about Oliver fairly innocuous, or even quite fun, the problem is not the card itself, but what the card represents, and the border for inclusion that places a dog above those not included within the formalised university group. In this case, Oliver the dog has more rights than many human employees at the same institution, even though he is incapable of exercising the same human responsibilities that form a part of the membership contract.

In this way, Oliver the Justice Dog reveals something of the operation of power within the biopolitical state through the very act of his exclusory-inclusion within the category of the human. Continue reading »

Dangerous dogs – animals condemned from birth

Following on from my last blog on humans, animals and the language of life and death, I thought I’d expand a little on the issues surrounding dangerous dogs, and that most outcast of all animals, the banned dangerous dog.

According to the UK government website, it is against the law to own certain types of dog. These are:

  • Pit Bull Terrier
  • Japanese Tosa
  • Dogo Argentino
  • Fila Brasiliero

It’s also against the law to:

  • Sell a banned dog
  • Abandon a banned dog
  • Give away a banned dog
  • Breed from a banned dog

If you are in possession of a banned dog, either knowingly or unknowingly, there is very little you can do. You cannot keep it, you cannot get rid of it – indeed the dog is condemned to death from its very birth. To explore the unique position held by the banned dangerous dog, we can conduct a simple thought experiment Continue reading »

Humans, Animals, and the Language of Life and Death

The language with which we refer to ourselves as human beings, relative to our ‘animal’ cousins is something that’s always fascinated me. I have always been interested in nature, and my sister, Kate, is soon to graduate as a vet, making these issues resonate all the more as I compare my own studies in philosophy with the world of animal science. Continue reading »

We are not pigeons! (Or are we?): Animality and the Homeless Conundrum

It was with great interest that I read in the news recently tale of Jennie Platt from Prestwich, who has been so incensed at the installation of anti-homeless spikes in Manchester, that she’s covered them up with cushions. According to Ms Platt, “The building owners are treating human beings like pigeons.”

This line intrigued me, and for a number of reasons. Firstly, there is the obvious assumption on the part of Ms Platt that we are not like pigeons and should not be treated as such. Yet in reality we all know and accept that we actually are an awful lot like pigeons and share more in common with them than we like to admit. In a way this incident reminds us of the strange Orwellian ‘double-think’ that we all subscribe to on a daily basis. That is, the way that we are at once both human and animal, and define our humanity in relation to, and through the exclusion of, the ‘animal’ other. Continue reading »