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Ethnozoology

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Ethnozoology

Ethnozoology is the study of the past and present interrelationships between human cultures and the animals in their environment.[1] It includes classification and naming of zoological forms, cultural knowledge and use of wild and domestic animals.[2] It is one of the main subdisciplines of ethnobiology and shares many methodologies and theoretical frameworks with ethnobotany.

Ethnozoology is the study of human and animal interaction. Ethnobiology includes ethnobotany, which concerns the study of human-plant relationships and ethnozoology. Ethnozoology focuses explicitly on human-animal relationships and knowledge humans have acquired concerning the Earth’s fauna. Ethnozoological study concerns the significance of this knowledge to our understanding of the roles played by animals in human society. Faunal resources play a variety of roles in human life throughout history, and their importance to human beings is not only utilitarian but cultural, religious, artistic, and philosophical.[3] Ethnozoology can be understood broadly, from ecological, cognitive, and symbolic perspectives. Human knowledge about natural faunal resources entails sensing, recognizing, classifying, living things. Ethnozoology is a discipline that connects scientific methods to traditional systems of knowledge and cultural beliefs.

History

Our earliest depictions of the human-animal relationship, rock paintings depicting animals like bison and horses being hunted by human figures, are around 35,000 years old,.[4] Early depictions of animals are drawn in great detail compared with the stick-figure human hunters, which suggests the reverence that humans once felt toward animals, on whose flesh their survival depended.[5] This kind of reverence was even spiritual.

Traditional knowledge and Culture

Medicinal and Therapeutic uses of animals

Since ancient times animals and the products derived from different organs of their bodies have constituted part of the inventory of medicinal substances used in various cultures; such uses still exist in various types of ethnic folk medicine until the present day [6] .[7] Traditional knowledge is related to the use of different animals and animal-derived products in a variety of ways. Animals and animal-products are used for medicinal purposes [8] and traditional knowledge regarding therapeutic uses of animals include tuberculosis, asthma, paralysis, jaundice, constipation, fatigue, and even snake poisoning. Most animal-based remedies have obtained from the wild species, although some domestic species are also used [9] [10][11][12][13] .[14] This kind of traditional knowledge is being incorporated into the conservation and management strategies of faunal resources in some areas of the world. Some practitioners of faunal-based Traditional medicine utilize species that are listed as threatened or endangered species.[15]

Sacred and Religious Qualities of Animals

Many cultures associate strong supernatural powers between the animal and human worlds, including mythologies and connections with totemic, ancestral, or magical animals and animal-gods.[16][17] Animals also have an incredible amount of symbolic meaning, even in modern 21st century American culture, as in the classic black cat association with poor luck.[18]

Animal Consumption

One of the most fundamental uses of animals by humans is to meet nutritional needs. Humans have been consuming a wide variety of animals and animal-products throughout all of history, including a wide variety of fish, mollusks, birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians.[19] Meat and fish have been the primary source of protein in humans’ diet for centuries[20] Hunting and fishing are the oldest known human activities[21] Globally, meat consumption is largely based on availability, prices, and tradition or culture. Making comparisons on meat consumption between countries is difficult because many social and economic factors influence demand and method of measuring consumption varies across countries. More significant are the differences in environmental impact, human health, and animal welfare among meat producers within countries. There is a huge variation in these concerns across meat farms based on production scale. Generally, the larger-scale and higher profit the production site, the more hazardous the human health and environmental consequences, and the worse treatment of the animals. As demand has increased and meat has become a major part of the average American’s diet, industrialized meat farming results in a slew of negative consequences, and the result is a large number of emerging research linking meat consumption to cancer and heart disease, environmental degradation including water contamination, and the inhumane treatment of mass-produced.

Meat is obtained through many different methods including organic farming, free-range farming, industrial livestock production, and hunting and fishing. Environmental degradation ranges widely across these different production methods. Overall, livestock farming is the largest land use sector on Earth,[22] and is therefore a major component in anthropogenic global climate change and environmental degradation around the world. In terms of greenhouse gas emissions, the contribution of the global livestock farming industry is greater than that of all transport, contributing nearly 22% of the total global emissions [23] Additionally, it takes nearly 2500 gallons of water to produce one pound of meat compared to around 25 gallons to produce one pound of wheat. Despite overwhelming trends, health consequences of one’s diet should be assessed on an individual basis.

Meat consumption has been correlated to heart disease, cancer, and obesity, especially in the U.S. A major health concern in meat production is the use of hormone injections and antibiotics, and the type of feed provided to the animals being hugely different from the animal’s natural diet. In large-scale meat farming operations, hormones are often injected directly into the muscle of the animal that will later become meat, a phenomenon that has been associated with serious health concerns in the human consumer, including the development of a resistance to antibiotics.[24] On the other hand, some research suggests that meat, when organic and free of harmful inputs, is actually beneficial to human health, and that humans function physically and cognitively best when consuming both plant and animal foods in order to maximize energy in proteins at the expense of carbohydrates.[25] Mass-slaughter operations are likely to have problematic or in-humane conditions for the animals. Being informed consumers of animal products, and condemning the industries that do not treat animals humanely by refusing to purchase from these producers is the best way to incentive change.[26][27]

Global production and consumption of meat is increasing by more than 5% annually,[28] as a result of increasing global populations, economic growth, and rapid urbanization in developing countries. Small-scale organic livestock farmers are the best case-scenario for animal farming in terms of environmental impact, human health, and animal welfare. At this scale, animals are treated well and given a long life, fed properly and without hormones and inputs, are free range but don’t occupy an excessively large area of forest, and don’t require large amounts of water and other resources for production. People whose diets consist of meat have been warned to be aware of these circumstances and purchase accordingly.

Animals as Pets

Domesticated animals have long been considered the link between human beings and wild nature.[29] There is evidence to suggest that primitive people found the human-animal connection important to their survival, and pet-keeping was common in hunter-gatherer societies.[30] Since domestication became a part of human society, the closeness of humans to their pets has become prevalent. Considering that early domestication was characterized by the active captivity and breeding of animals, the animals that were most readily bred can be classified as pets of the hunter-gatherer society. Historically, indigenous people often capture young animals and raise them to be sold in markets. There are striking variations in pet-keeping practices in the modern world. There is enormous variety in the animals kept as pets throughout the world, including not only innumerable mammals, birds and fish, but also reptiles and amphibians. There is a preference in the developed world for mammals, especially dogs and cats, but animals such as reptiles, amphibians and some invertebrates have become popular domestic pets as well. The incredible variation in species and relative abundance of reptiles have been cited as the reasons for their increasing popularity as household pets.

The deeply rooted psychological desire in people for animal companionship as pets has been linked to contribute positively to maintaining the mental health and general well being of elderly people living alone. Animals have been used in supporting human health through pet therapy or animal-assisted therapy. Animals can be useful in aiding people with mobility deficiencies, mental disabilities, or behavioral problems. Also, children who are raised with pets are more likely to learn how to command respect and adapt to new situations and respond more positively to situations in which they are given responsibility. Although rare, pet-keeping can lead to serious disease and fatalities in humans. The use and popularity of exotic and wild species of animals as pets has led to the stimulation of illegal trading, which has a serious impact on the vitality of the populations of these species.

Ethnozoology and Conservation

In a broader context, ethnozoology and its companion discipline, ethnobotany, contribute to the larger science of ethnobiology. The history of ethnobiology is divided into three periods. The pre-classical period, which began around 1860, focused on collecting information about humans’ use of resources, while the classical period, which began in 1954, produced anthropological studies on linguistics and biological classifications. The current period, or post-classical period, has been described as a meeting of social science and the study of natural resources.[31] This type of convergence conveys the importance of ethnobiology for conservation.

Given the profound human influence on faunal biodiversity, wildlife conservation planning is becoming increasingly urgent. It is widely acknowledged that environmental health is important to human health, and biodiversity loss can have both indirect and direct negative effects on human wellbeing. The close link between human health and ecological/faunal health is substantiated with five important concepts: animals cause and disseminate disease for humans and vice versa, animals can be guards of human health, animals are used in traditional medicine practices throughout the world, animals are a source of drugs and treatments in human diseases, and animals are used in medical research.[32] Many conservation strategies focus on the sustainability of wildlife species. Wildlife corridors, protected areas, threatened and endangered species lists, hunting and fishing regulations and fines, and even zoos have been used in the approach to managing and protecting natural wildlife.

Ethnozoology and the Social Sciences

Sociology

Sociology has been slow to explore Ethnozoology and grant it much credibility, which puzzling given the commanding presence of animals in society.[33] For instance, attendance at zoos exceeds that at professional sporting events; the amount of money that pet-owners spend on pet food is great than the amount of money parents spend on baby food; the amount of mail received by congress-people in reference to animal welfare was greater than that received on the controversial Vietnam War. On the other hand, Americans consume more meat than ever from factory farm operations, which research shows is detrimental to human health, environmental sustainability, and animal welfare. The social sciences and ethnozoology can inform more reasoned decisions about the proper use of animals. The study of ethnozoology is important because policy makers and concerned citizens are too often left to be informed only by animal advocates or biomedical researchers, both of which are inherently biased. Animals provide humans with a better understanding of ourselves, and how we think and act toward animals has the potential to reveal our attitudes toward other people and social order. Evidence of this can be seen in the ways that animal images may at times be expressing underlying racism: “the most damning testimony given by accused police at the Rodney King trial involved characterization of King as a ‘gorilla’; during the Gulf War Saddam Hussein was described in the American press as a ‘rat’; and the actions of people in the Los Angeles riots were likened by the media commentators to ‘packs of vicious animals’”.[34]

Sociology is a science that is largely concerns with groups under oppression and suffering, including African Americans studies, women’s studies, gay/lesbian studies etc., however not much attention or legitimacy is awarded animal studies. Modern use of animals in the developed world, especially in the United States, can be characterized by exploitation, domination, and oppression.[35] Animal cruelty and abuse is not only present in the industrial farming of livestock, but also in such circumstances as dog fighting, cow tipping, horse racing, circus acts, and other entertainment industries and practices. Furthermore, animals are often victims and pawns used in domestic violence. The widespread abuse of animals in modern society is important for sociology because it involves an entrenched assumption about the connection between cruelty toward animals and violence directed and human beings. Some research has even suggested ways in which the human-animal interaction can challenge dominant sociological theories about the self.[36]

Anthropology

Anthropology has done more to study Ethnozoology in terms of the history of the function of animals in non-industrialized societies and the role that animals play symbolically and religiously in different cultures around the world.[37] The domestication process has been the chief concern for anthropologists, whose interests are in the history of human desire to understand animals, enslave them, and harness their power. Animal-derived products have been used especially for food, but also for clothing, tools, toys, and for medicinal and magic-religious purposes. Many cultures associate strong supernatural powers between the animal and human worlds, including mythologies and connections with totemic, ancestral, or magical animals and animal-gods.[38][39]

Animals also have an incredible amount of symbolic meaning, even in modern 21st century American culture, as in the classic black cat association with poor luck.[40] Biological knowledge varies according to cultural and traditional knowledge and experiences. People share a basic way of comprehending the natural world based on common evolutionary history, and this foundation connects the global, trans modern scientific biology with its historical roots in different cultures (Ellen, 2003). The Evolutionary perspective on human cognition and affect indicates some degree of universality in perception and decision-making with regard to the natural world and its fauna. The interaction between these aspects of psychology, biodiversity of the Earth’s wildlife, and the unique social, cultural, and economic contexts within which humans interact and develop produces cultural diversity. Paleoanthropological studies suggest that linguistic approaches to ethnobiology have only recently evolved in the context of human history,[41] which suggests that these linguistic approaches only provide a partial understanding to how humans perceive and engage with the natural world around them.[42] There is an interesting place for psychology in the study of enthnozoology as well, especially in terms of the ways in which our cognitive perceptions of animals and the natural world can affect our behaviors on individual and societal levels, the connection between mental health and animal companionship, and even the emerging interest in the effects of meat consumption on humans mental health and neurology.

References

  1. ^ Ethnozoology Index
  2. ^ Johnson, Leslie Main. Ethnobiology - Traditional Biological Knowledge in Contemporary Global Context. Anthropology 491 study guide, Athabasca University 2002. p. 71
  3. ^ Alves, R. (2012). Relationships between fauna and people and the role of ethnozoology in animal conservation. Ethnobiology and Conservation, 1
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External links

  • Notes on Bukusu ethnozoology from western Kenya
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