Blame capitalism, anthroparchy, white supremacy and patriarchy for animal shelter killings

This article is within the umbrella of Critical Race Theory (CRT – see base of article for an explanation πŸ˜ŽπŸ‘ and a definition of ‘anthroparchy’). The source of the article is an article written by Nathan Winograd, the architect of America’s No Kill Movement which has saved the lives of millions of shelter animals. He is criticising a book written by Professor Katja Guenther at the University of California, who downplays the fantastic advances made in minimising the euthanasia of shelter animals and instead blames the killing of shelter animals on “capitalism, anthroparchy, white supremacy and patriarchy”.

Note: I wonder if she wrote the book to gain a certain amount of notoriety as it is controversial. Anything to be successful πŸ˜‰. Not sure though.

Author and book
Author and book. Claim fair use in using these images for this montage.
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Gist of the book’s theme

CRT is a very complicated and difficult philosophy to discuss. But, on my interpretation, at its heart, Professor Katja Guenther is saying that the presence of shelter animals, often in high numbers in America, is often due to white supremacy and racism which keeps people of colour poor and poor people find it difficult to comply with America’s extensive animal welfare and protection laws.

Because of their socio-economic status they tend to use and by some standards abuse animals which makes them vulnerable to animal welfare laws and it makes them vulnerable to the relinquishment of animals to shelters.

And Katja Guenther also criticises shelter staff for having racist views and criticising people of colour for more often than white people relinquishing animals to their shelters. In short, using CRT concepts, racism in America is linked to poor animal welfare and those people of colour who are convicted of animal welfare crimes are also the victims of these crimes as are the animals.

That’s my interpretation and Katja’s theory undermines, Winograd believes, all the good that he has built up in the No Kill Movement. He believes that this kind of book written by Katja called The Lives and Deaths of Shelter Animals may result in more shelter animal deaths.

Guenther does have followers. There are those who support her arguments. But Winograd says her book misses the mark by a mile. Although it’s gaining traction.

White norms

Guenther says that it is the privilege of white people in America to allow their dogs to sleep inside the home. Is their privilege to relate to dogs as family members. These attitudes are difficult to maintain if you are very poor and suppressed which leads to a different relationship between animal and person such as using a dog as a utility animal which in turn might lead to the dog being chained up outside (guard dog) which in turn is going to be a crime in parts of America. That’s the kind of chain reaction if you forgive the pun that can make people of colour victims to white supremacy and these laws.

Guenther believes that the rights that the current norms of relating to dogs and cats as family members and the way Americans treat companion animals, are out of reach to people of colour because they “are themselves trapped in poverty, may have few options for legitimate income generation, and possibly rely on their dogs for status”.

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Agreement

One American shelter director agrees with her and says that these norms are sometimes unattainable for “anyone in the US other than white, middle-class and upper-class”. There are calls in some quarters to relax the enforcement of animal protection laws as a consequence. This will be a dire backward step after decades of slow progress in improving welfare through comprehensive animal welfare laws which are enforced by and large.

Demographics not race

Guenthercites a particular shelter where the majority of dogs ending up at the shelter belongs to poor people of Asian and Latino heritage and to a lesser extent black people. She says that this points to the fact that they are forced to relinquish their dogs but Winograd’s counterargument is the area where the shelter is situated is a place where there are lots of Asian and Latino people. It is not that these people give up their animals more frequently because you can go to a predominantly white community where you will find a higher per capita relinquishing rate of animals to shelters then you will find in a community where the majority are people of colour.

To put that more succinctly and in the words of Nathan Winograd, “the ethnicity of the people who surrender animals to shelters is largely a function of area demographics not of race.”

Too subjective

And Katja Guenther is criticised for being too subjective. In fact, she admits that she cannot relinquish her subjectivity. She was trained in sociology which is a discipline where you are meant to be impartial and observe things objectively but she writes that “I deliberately turn away from these tendencies and instead embrace the messy possibilities of being a researcher with complex ties to the social setting I am analysing.”

And therefore her book is far too subjective and too emotional, relying on impressions and feelings and guesswork rather than objective facts.

Infantilisation

Winograd claims that she “stereotypes and infantilises people of colour”. No matter what your race, you adopt a dog or cat for companionship. Winograd accuses her for perpetuating “prejudicial and unsubstantiated views about people of colour and their ability to provide appropriate care [for companion animals].”

Victims

It would seem that Guenther portrays people of colour as victims and people who have “things happen to them” as opposed to white people who “do things” in the words of Winograd.

If for example a person of colour abandons their dog in an empty apartment, they are culpable for the suffering caused to that animal but are deemed to be victims “ensnared in the legal system”. They’re forced to behave like this because of the possibility of a sudden eviction or deportation or arrest. Comment: poor argument. There is never and excuse for leaving behind a companion animal if you have to vacate your home suddenly.

Puppy in harm’s way

In one story told by Guenther a Latino man was in the process of committing a crime and her dropped a puppy that he was carrying while riding a bicycle. The puppy was put in harm’s way but Guenther argues that the man was forced to commit a crime and therefore the animal welfare consequences were forced upon him.

Backyard breeder

And in another story she reports on a woman who was breeding dogs (a backstreet breeder) and one of her dogs was impounded and subsequently killed at a pound. She doe not blame this woman even though, according to Winograd she was “not only selling the puppies to buy drugs, but it was the dog who ended up dead.”

Doing their best

She argues that if a poor person of colour suffering a racist environment mistreats their companion animal they are doing their best “within the constraints of their knowledge and resources, both of which are limited by the nexus of their class, status as immigrants and ethnicity”.

Excusing abuse

As you can see, Guenther finds an argument why animal abuse can be excused when it is perpetrated by people of a certain ethnicity. I get the argument but I don’t think you can ever excuse animal abuse no matter how poor or oppressed you are. I don’t think you can absolve yourself of the responsibility and duty towards companion animals under any circumstances. And I think that duty is very apparent to anybody no matter what their education. Education counts for a lot as does good and bad parenting but it seems to me that Guenther is allowing her empathy towards people of colour including immigrants – which I think is laudable – to colour her views about animal abuse and animal welfare (subjectivity).

Shelter workers

Katja Guenther also criticises some shelter workers who are normally white people and she accuses them of working to “re-inscribe hierarchies of power and status within the shelter” against the nonwhite workers and thus “maintain existing social inequalities between humans even as they seek to help animals”. White shelter workers’ criticisms of ethnic minority companion animal owners whose animals end up as a shelter are based on the “animal practices of white rescuers”. Winograd thinks that she should be praising these white animal shelter workers.

Precarious lives

Finally, I’ll end up with this: Guenther believes that people of colour should not be held responsible if they mistreat animals including medical neglect because they lead precarious lives.

I get the point she’s making. I think you will as well. But she’s an apologist for poor animal welfare. I don’t think it’s helpful to blame white people and this is a very difficult and subtle area of discussion. I don’t have any strong views either way. I just like to report what I read.

White writing about people of colour

It is difficult, I think, also, for a white person (I am a white person) to write about the lives of people of colour in the inner cities of America. I don’t think I can do it justice actually because I don’t really know exactly what it’s like, what it feels like, the problems, the oppression, the difficulties and so on. Katja may have a good argument but at this stage I disagree with it and prefer the counterargument of Nathan Winograd.

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What is CRT?

Critical Race Theory (CRT) is an interdisciplinary academic field that examines the relationships between social conceptions of race and ethnicity, legal and political systems, and media. It challenges the notion that race is a natural, biologically grounded feature of distinct human subgroups. Instead, CRT asserts that race is a socially constructed category used to oppress and exploit people of color. Scholars within this framework aim to address systemic racism and promote greater justice by understanding educational inequality and structural racism3.

Anthroparchy

A social system of attitudes, practices, and institutions through which the natural world is dominated to the benefit of humans.

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