Animal Studies Bibliography

Nash, J. E. and A. Sutherland. 1991. The moral elevation of animals: The case of Gorillas in the Mist.' International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society 5: 111-126.

In modern society, belief systems are in flux, contested, and numerous, and people may choose from among these various ideologies. One issue defined by most ideologies is the relationship between humans and animals. With the declining strength of the Judeo-Christian dominion model, many new interpretations of this relationship are floating around, and the variety of views found by Kellert are evidence that its meaning is considerably contested. One of the new ideologies is that posed by animal rights, environmental, and conservationist activists, who deny that humans are superior to animals. One popular manifestation of this sentiment is the film Gorillas in the Mist.' Because the lower and upper classes are closer to nature than are the middle classes, the latter are the main audience for this ideology and the film. The major theme of the film is that animals and nature are innocent and morally superior, while civilization, both industrialized and Third World, is corrupt and evil. In essence, the film shows Fossey's struggles as a conflict between nature and culture. Human civilization is shown as cruel, violent, greedy, superstitious and stupid, and viewers are meant to support Fossey as she ignores any and all human rights in her quest to save the gorillas (e.g. killing a dissenting researcher, mocking the local people's beliefs about witchcraft, disturbing their gravesites). The gorillas are portrayed as good, loving, brave, and morally pure. The moral failures of the human world are so complete that Fossey must forsake her human life (rejecting a human lover, etc.) and normal male/female sexuality, and identify completely with the animals. The ideology of the film challenges basic cultural beliefs about what humans are, showing that animals too are capable of rational thought, emotional reaction, and empathy and that all human organization does not actually include human values, such as humaneness. Fossey considers the boundary between human and animal permeable, and she becomes more human when she is with animals and less so when she is with humans (120). The possibility for such an animal rights ideology to become some prominent is partly due to the increased number of religious choices which have included popular new age beliefs that consider nature and animals worthy of worship. An ideology emphasizing the humanness of animals may appeal strongly to urban and suburban middle class people who own pets, often to fill voids left by upheavals in family structure that leave more people alone or without emotional support. This devotion to pets may help increase acceptance of notions of global fragility proposed by environmentalists. Stories about animals in the mass media have also helped develop this new ideology, encouraging people, for example, to despise people who abuse animals. Gorillas in the Mist' thus expresses the developing animal rights ideology that is competing for dominance in defining the human-animal relationshi



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