Animal Hoarding: The Paradox of the Caring Abuser (2)
In an earlier blog (Animal Hoarding: The paradox of the caring abuser;
May 23, 2011), we discussed the enigma of the person who cares for
animals and yet is responsible for the gross neglect of those in her
care (most, but not all hoarders are female). We indicated how animal
hoarding can be understood as one of many contradictions in contemporary
society's treatment of nonhuman animals. Here I examine more closely
the peculiar contradiction of animal hoarding.
People differ in
how they perceive and, accordingly, treat animals in general, and
species and individuals in particular. Consider these three ways: (1)
Animals are (like) things, (2) animals are (like) people, and (3)
animals are (like) animals, that is themselves.
We are familiar
with (1) in the commodification of animals in agriculture and the
objectification of animals in laboratory animal research. At first
glance, animal hoarders look like they fit into this group. Often
compared to individuals who collect things, they seem to collect animals
as if they were things. Of course, thing collectors often value the
stuff they collect and, in fact, that value often lies in the connection
of the thing to a particular person (the book that so-and-so gave me).
Still the "valued" stuff is treated poorly and often is damaged. In any
case, recent research distinguishes animal hoarders from compulsive
collectors of things.
Particularly in the case of companion
animals, people often view their own animals as part of the family,
usually as children. Increasingly, the literature in human-animal
studies, buttressed by findings in animal behavior science, addresses
the complexities of human-animal relationships, sorting out the ways in
which our domestication of these animals actually has made them like
human children and, on the other hand, the degree to which they remain
themselves, animals different from humans.
A recent theory
suggests that for the animal hoarder,* we need to add a fourth category
to the three ways of viewing animals we have been describing. Although
it appears that a hoarder relates to the animals she keeps as her
children, on a deeper psychological level she relates to them as part of
herself -- as a "selfobject" (Brown, S. , Self psychological
theoretical constructs of animal hoarding, Society & Animals, 19,
175-193). The dog is not perceived as a dog but as an aspect of self,
often as a mirror that reflects a need of the self. I need you to like,
love, respect, or, even, need me. When I look at you, I see your
admiration for or dependence on me. At the extreme, relating to another
being, human or animal, becomes greatly distorted -- as my need that you
like me takes little account of how you actually perceive me. The animal
hoarder's relationship to her animals sees only their dependence on and
need for her -- disavowing the horrible condition in which those
animals are living and dying.
*Of course, there are different types of hoarders ("overwhelmed caretaker," "rescuer," and "exploiter").
Published by admin on 12/26/2011 11:42:31