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Kyle Dahlin

Lynda Haas
Writing 37
February 15 2015
Evolution of Animal Relations
In all of history the relationship between humans and animals has been ever changing.
Much like the world around us, relations between humans and animals evolve as well. Many
people choose animals and pets or companions and some wonder why humans take animal
companions. Grant Morrison, an author and animal activist, believes that some people feel that
they are superior to animals. Another author, Leslie Irvine, presents several ideas on why and
how humans create relations with other creatures. Other authors look at the evolutionary and
historical record to see why and where relations with animals started. These experts explain that
animals initially started out as lesser beings or resources, but have since become companions
almost equal to humans.
Many authors argue that power over nature and animals is a catalyst for relations
to form between humans and animals. Grant Morrison is an author and playwright who has spent
parts of his life as an animal activist and animal rights advocate. When asked what his feelings
are regarding animal rights Morrison replied "we hurt, abuse and torture some animals because
we can get away with it, in typical bully style. We tend to think our very human-ness confers
upon us some special distinction from the animals"(Brady). The humans that choose to create
abusive relations and mistreat animals do so simply because they can get away with it. A feeling
of superiority arises within the person playing the "master" and Morrison believes that many
interactions between animals and humans result from this dominance argument. Leslie Irvine is a
professor of sociology at the University of Colorado with one of her research areas being the
human-animal interaction, and she addresses the dominance argument in a chapter of her book,
If You Tame Me. Irvine acknowledges Morrison's ideas and states, "With companion animals, the
situation differs slightly. Our relationships with them are necessarily unequal. They depend on us
to give them food, water, and even to allow them to relieve themselves. In addition, the guardian
at least, the responsible onewill exert power over the animal in training, vaccinating,
sterilizing"(Irvine 26). This inequality creates a feeling of one superior being and one inferior
being, possibly translating into the feeling of domination. However, Irvine also believes that
"Although their utter dependence on their human guardians indeed creates a fundamental
inequality, this does not necessarily translate into domination"(Irvine 28). Irvine states that while
the characteristics of dominance are present, the superior begin is not acting in a dominating
fashion. A distinction is made between a dominator and a caretaker. Morrison believes that
humans use the thought of themselves being superior beings as the basis for their interactions
with animals. Irvine takes this same idea and extends upon it, claiming that while there is an
inequality between two species, dominance over the "lesser" species is rarely a factor in the
thinking of the "superior" one.
Some anthropologists and experts on the subject dismiss this idea of dominance and
instead look towards evolutionary evidence. Pat Shipman, a paleoanthropologist working at Penn
State University, has given several interviews stating her ideas in the combined evolution of
humans and animals. Shipman believes the "transformation of formerly wild beasts into living
tools gave humans a decisive edge in adapting to new environments and using the evolutionary
advantages of animals for themselves" (Hsu). Shipman suggests that the bond between humans
and animals shifted human capabilities and was the starting point for the relation that exists

today. Krystal D'Costa is an established anthropologist and has written extensively about the
topic. D'Costa states that "Animals were domesticated as living tools. They expanded the reach
of humans and made other resources more accessible. Animals could provide labor, milk, wool,
and opportunities for the production of tools and clothing"(D'Costa). This was the start of the
animal domestication that is common today and began the transition of animals from tools to
companions. Irvine presents this same topic and agrees with Costa and references the historical
record. Irvine claims that the historical record "credits dogs' superior hunting abilities as the
catalyst for relationships with humans. In this depiction, human hunting parties followed packs
of wild dogs"(Irvine 14). She reinforces the beliefs of Costa, in which animals were tools for
hunting. This relationship evolved over time and eventually resulted in dogs and other animals
becoming integrated into society. Today, humans "routinely take in animals integrate them into
our families, creating a beneficial relationship. Our connection to Fido may be deeply rooted in
our evolutionary history" (D'Costa). D'Costa suggests that humans choose animals companions
because it was what our ancestors did and the transition has since continued. The aspect that has
changed is how we treat and use the animals, going from "living tools" to almost members of the
family. Humans who initially chose animals as tools and resources have been conditioned to now
choose them as companions.
Human-animal interaction experts believe that relations between humans and other
creatures began with humans using supposedly lesser creatures as tools. Eventually society
evolved alongside these relations and animals have become pets and members of human
families. Grant Morrison states that people attempt to feel superior to their animals, and Irvine
states that most others are simply acting as caretakers. Irvine and D'Costa use the historical
record to analyze how animals eventually came to exist alongside humans as pets rather than
below them as living resources. All the authors acknowledge that the relationship is continuing to
improve to this day as pets are becoming increasingly common in human society.

Works Cited
Brady, Matt. "NEWSARAMA." NEWSARAMA. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Jan. 2015. <http://classicweb.archive.org/web/20071013020107/http://www.newsarama.com/pages/DC/We3.h
tm>.
D'Costa, Krystal. "The Animal Connection: Why Do We Keep Pets? | Anthropology in Practice,
Scientific
American Blog Network." Scientific American Global RSS. N.p., n.d.
Web. 30 Jan. 2015. <http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/anthropology-inpractice/2012/01/20/the-animalconnection-why-do-we-keep-pets/>.
Hsu, Jeremy. "Caring for Animals May Have Shaped Human Evolution."LiveScience.
TechMedia Network, 02 Aug. 2010. Web. 30 Jan. 2015.
<http://www.livescience.com/6818-caring-animals-shaped-human-evolution.html>.
Irvine, Leslie. If You Tame Me Understanding Our Connection with Animals. Philadelphia:
Temple UP, 2004. Print.

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