Nobody Wants to Eat Them Alive: Ethical Dilemmas and Media Narratives on Domestic Rabbits as Pets and Commodity
For centuries, rabbits have been used as a food commodity. And yet even today when there are millions of families keeping rabbits as domestic companions, the parallel perception of those prey animals as commodity remains equally dominant in public discourse.
In Nobody Wants to Eat Them Alive, authors Gayane Torosyan and Brian Lowe use semiotic analysis to explore the changes occurring in societal perception of rabbits as commodity animals as juxtaposed to their increasing popularity as domestic companions. The study is based on a preliminary hypothesis that rabbits are increasingly perceived and portrayed in the media as domestic pets similar to cats and guinea pigs, which challenges the parallel narrative that views rabbits as farm animals for their meat and fur, or as subjects of medical tests. Operating within a theoretical framework that considers news media as both a socially constructed reflection of reality and recorder history, the study examines the dynamics of change in numbers of coded new narratives drawn as a convenience sample of one thousand published articles from a database of news and features published worldwide between 1990 and 2011.
From commodity to companion, a shift in perspective can herald a dramatic shift in progressive ethical treatment. Thus for rabbits, such a shift signals a trend toward more humane practices and a decline in exploitative practices such as slaughter and laboratory experiments--and perhaps points toward the promising trend of a more humane society in general.
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