Regarding my recent post about a sociological article against "speciesism," someone asked why I seem to be regularly chiding those sociologists involved with the Animals & Society section. Reason #1 is that a certain friend who doesn't have a blog of her own keeps sending me these things, so things are brought to my attention more than they otherwise might. Reason #2, point blank, is that I have no enthusiasm for the fight against "speciesism" and reject approximately all of its attendant moral arguments*, and so I have a hard time seeing it listed alongside "racism" and "war" on the roster of social concern.
But, beyond that:
I think if I had to name what I regarded as the most genuinely interesting social trends in the US in the last 50 years, the shrinking pet-child gap would maybe make the Top 10 and would certainly make the Top 20. "Interesting"-ness is in the eye of the beholder, of course, and I suspect the shrinking pet-child gap particularly intrigues me because I grew up on a farm, in a culture with a very different attitude toward animals than the world I stepped into when I entered graduate school. Indeed, when I was in graduate school, for awhile I was keeping this tally for the sociology graduate student listserv of the number of times anyone sent out a message related to advocacy for an animal welfare cause versus a message related to advocacy for a child welfare cause. My recollection is that the score ended up Pets 11, Kids 4.
This, to me, is interesting, but apparently not interesting enough where it has risen to being anything I actually do research about. Which is another reason that I find sociology's animal movement interesting, because it exemplifies for me a larger point about sociology. As I said, I believe the shrinking pet-child gap is an interesting phenomenon, and it could be subject to a extremely interesting analysis from somebody willing to take a broad and engaged-while-still-somewhat-removed view of it. But, of course, who is going to do that?
Instead, the people who are going to enter the field of "animals and society" are going to be the people who are most committed to fighting speciesism as a cause--in other words, the people who are playing a vanguard part in the very thing I regard as the phenomenon. So, instead of sociologists offering studies that help to understand the shrinking pet-child gap--which, whatever you think of it, is an empirical phenomenon with all sorts of social ramifications, we get sociologists exhibiting the phenomenon by arguing for the value of work in which the researcher studies playing with his dog and in which the researcher tries to use sociological theory to justify a polemic that elevates "speciesism" to being of a piece with racism.
* Even so, inexplicably, I must confess that I've been lately thinking about returning to pescatarianism (that is, eating no meat except for seafood).