The Inhumanities

Animal Attacks

with 3 comments

I have nothing particularly insightful to add to this, but I’m always amazed at the institutional response to animal attacks: the animal(s) involved in the attack must be hunted down and exterminated. Take the following story reported in my local daily: a woman hiking in the woods was apparently attacked by two coyotes, she died as a result, one of the coyotes was shot, but escaped, and the other escaped unharmed. The institutional response is as follows:

Parks staff are searching for the second coyote, which will be killed if it is found, said Germaine LeMoine, a spokesman for the Cape Breton field unit for Parks Canada.

“The trail has been closed and it is secure,” LeMoine said. “We’re very concerned about public safety. That’s foremost on our minds. We are keeping it closed until that second animal has been located and disposed of.”

Many questions come to mind: how will the escaped coyote be identified as the one who participated in the “attack? Further, why is there no inquiry into the probable case that the woman (or another human elsewhere on the trail) acted in some way so as to bring the coyotes to attack? (Coyotes, like wolves and bears, which are most frequently involved in “animal attacks” in Canada tend to shy away from contact with human under the well-known principle: “they are more scared of you than you are of them.”) Subsequent investigation into many “animal attacks” result in showing that the humans were complicit in the “attack” if not outright responsible for it. For instance, in the case of bear “attacks” acting in ways that the bear finds threatening (e.g., trying to scare it away) rather than acting in ways that the bear will not find threatening (e.g., slowly and calmly backing up while facing the bear until you are out of its sight.) What is the principle that leads to retribution of this sort? Has the coyote been deemed to be criminally responsible for murder? If so, why not give the coyote a trial? Why summary execution? How will the response not lead to an open season on coyotes in general? Of course, even in the case where you provoke the attack, intentionally or not, you have the right to defend your life even if that means ending the life of the attacker, this principle cannot be extended into the indefinite future.


Written by Craig McFarlane

October 28, 2009 at 2:32 pm

Posted in Animals

3 Responses

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  1. There is an interesting article written by Chris Wilberton the issueof animal attacks and who s assigned blame. He argues that blaming humans for insighting such an attack drains the agency out of such animals responsible by denying such accountability. I don’t know if I buy that argument, but its rather interesting to think that a coyote may have responded with such an attack rather than merely reacted to smething completely external.


    November 2, 2009 at 8:56 am

  2. Adam, that is an interesting article. Thanks for the link. The argument reminds me of Fanon’s analysis of anti-colonial violence. Whether animals are seen as monstrous assailants, as in the article Craig critiques, or as victims of circumstance, the paradigm Wilbert critiques, what is excluded is the possibility that animal violence is ever justified (rationally, morally, ecologically, territorially). This “animal violence” is what the State denies all individuals (within or without its borders) and what the category of “terrorist” denotes. The “response/reaction” difference you cite is a good way to start prying this apart in the case of humans and others.


    November 6, 2009 at 4:34 pm

  3. I’ve also always wondered why animals involved in “attacks” were killed, and have thought up some justifications that might be used by the people who kill the “attacking” animals:

    Humans generally feel no compunction from killing certain types of animals (like common house flies and mosquitoes), but killing other types of animals (particularly rare, intelligent, and/or cute animals) is avoided, unless there is a high likelihood that these particular animals pose a danger to humans and are in an area frequented by humans.

    When an animal fits in to this second groups, but attacks a human, they demonstrate a propensity for attacking humans, and are thus considered to have a greater likelihood of attacking a human again than other members of their species.

    Therefore, the animals involved in attacks against humans are killed to reduce the danger they themselves pose to humans, and (possibly) as an attempt at a form of eugenics (so that traits that make these animals more likely to attack humans, if such traits exist, are no passed on to their offspring).


    November 7, 2009 at 5:13 pm

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