A professor at the University of California-Riverside wrote a book that argued animals are being put down in shelters because of “capitalism” and “white supremacy.”
Gender and sexuality studies professor Katja M. Guenther writes in her book “The Lives and Deaths of Shelter Animals” that shelter animals are subject to euthanization thanks to American systems of “capitalism, anthroparchy, white supremacy, and patriarchy.” The book also argues that allowing dogs to sleep inside is a privilege reserved for “white and wealthy” people.
According to a book review in Aero Magazine, the author argues that any policy that discourages people from keeping dogs chained up in backyards is intended to oppress people of color. These policies impose “middle-class norms of animal keeping in which companion animals are considered family and treated accordingly.” Such policies allegedly ignore the fact that people of color “are themselves trapped in poverty, may have few options for legitimate income generation and possibly rely on their dogs for … status.”
The book is written from the perspective of Monster, an adult pitbull impounded in an animal shelter in Los Angeles.
“Like many other dogs at the shelter, Monster is associated with marginalized humans and assumed to embody certain behaviors because of his breed,” the book description reads. “[Guenther] argues that these inequalities are powerfully linked to human ideas about race, class, gender, ability, and species. Guenther deftly explores internal hierarchies, breed discrimination, and importantly, instances of resistance and agency.”
In the Aero Magazine book review, author Nathan J. Winograd, who is an animal shelter director, said that Guenther rejects objectivity in her book and research. Rejecting objectivity is a core tenet of critical race theory, which Guenther studies.
Guenther deliberately rejects objective evidence of this kind, admitting that “it is not possible for me to be impartial”: “I was trained in sociology, a discipline that emphasizes impartiality and the need to systematize observations and analysis in ways that distance the researcher from the researched. I deliberately turn away from these tendencies and instead embrace the messy possibilities of being a researcher with complex ties to the social setting I am analyzing.”
At best, the book presents subjective feelings, anecdotes, and even guesses as compelling evidence for its conclusions — at worst, it ignores evidence to the contrary.
According to Guenther’s website, she holds a Ph.D. in sociology and works within interdisciplinary feminist and critical frameworks. Guenther’s main areas of research, writing, and activism are “feminist politics and human exploitation of non-human animals.”
“I am interested in understanding how and why inequalities of gender, race, class, ability, and species reproduce so reliably, and what we can do to challenge these inequalities,” Guenther writes.
The professor says she is currently working on developing “a feminist analysis of how rescuers of companion and free-roaming (aka ‘wild’ animals) represent and negotiate their relationships and relations of care with disabled animals.”
Guenther is not the only professor to tie critical race theory to animals. According to The College Fix, a professor of gender, women, and sexuality studies at Kansas State University offered a hypothesis on how “bad” dogs face marginalization akin to racism. The book is titled, “Bad Dogs,” and describes the “intersection between animal politics and social facets such as gender, sexuality, and race.” The professor calls this “interspecies intersectionality.”
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