Dr Darwin’s Waterloo Pigeon

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In France, feeding of urban pigeons in the outer realm became prohibited by law in Vacher , more or less at the same period as in other Western cities. At the same time, urban pigeon populations started to be controlled by trapping, poisoning, shooting, gassing, and so on Haag-Wackernagel, ; Jerolmack This hygienism was explained as a reaction to the massive arrival of animals and to ever-growing cities with proportionately increased city dweller requirements in terms of consumption of animal products at the end of the nineteenth century.

Entire herds of animals were brought to the city daily, crammed together in the streets, to be slaughtered and quartered, often in open sheds. The unceasing coming and going of animals provoked chaotic traffic, especially on market days, and exhausted animals and hastily trained drivers caused increasingly more incidents. Complaints, increased conflicts between animal users and others in their neighborhood, as well as growing attention to sanitary and hygienist concerns forced municipalities to intervene Baratay, Programs of urban renovation were launched at the end of the nineteenth century, which cleaned up the city and pushed slaughterhouses to the fringes.

This redevelopment of the urban landscape not only included larger streets and squares but also vegetation, instead of animals, as a structuring element of urban space, as well in an aesthetic aim to clean up the air Leblanc In parallel, pigeons held no more functional utility in the beginning of the twentieth century, after their breeding was, to a great extent, abandoned.


The annual delivery of pigeon meat decreased in France from to 67 tons between and , in favor of the extensively grown chicken, because larger fillets were requested Royer The use of pigeons as army messengers also became obsolete after the end of World War II. Pigeons did not even have a function as a moral guide when the Christian religion progressively abandoned its symbolic bestiary from to as a consequence of its internal evolution.

Animals have indeed been stripped of their religious functions in an attempt to break with rural connotations and to humanize, rationalize and adapt religion to urban life Baratay However, new behavioral particularities observed in urban pigeons could have induced the erosion of their former moral function. First, as with other Columbidae, pigeons feed their young with crop milk and they can reproduce throughout the year as soon as adults can obtain enough food Johnston and Janiga Thus, urban pigeons can reproduce throughout the year with lower reproduction in winter, Jacquin et al.

By continuously walking on the city ground, pigeons stand in opposition to the upstroke of birds and so have broken their symbol of elevation. As scavengers, pigeons became the incarnation of the ordinary, if not mediocrity, in contradiction to their supernatural aspect bright whiteness, extraordinary behavior, and sudden appearance and their higher condition in religious imaginary. The redefinition of pigeons as a nuisance species is historically related to discourses about hygiene and the dirtiness of pigeons.

Following this proposition, pigeons were deemed as disturbing and polluting because they were considered not in their right place. Indeed, as they went through domestication, urban pigeons differ from their wild ancestors, the rock dove Columba livia , with respect to their genetic and behavioral characteristics Sol This is common among all domesticated species. The problem in urban pigeons is that because they are living ferally, settling, feeding, and mating freely, they are no longer domesticated de Planhol In France, this was reflected in their lack of legal status.

Therefore, we argue that the reason for pigeons being out of place is that they belong to none of the common Western animal categories; more precisely, they no longer fit their former domesticate category. Hence, dirt and hygiene issues, as well as the perceived disturbance of pigeons, were grounded more deeply in their contesting of their domesticated status. Indeed, domestication involves not only biological Driscoll et al.

Even where these categories do exist, the domestic, the wild in general, and domestic and wild animals in particular hold different connotations according to cultures and contexts. Although we acknowledge the wild-domestic dichotomy as a cultural construction, we will rely on it here as an anthropological category because it retains an analytical utility Russel ; Orton ; Micoud The goal hence is not to provide a valid definition of domestication but rather to examine the representations related to it. Domestication is commonly recognized as difficult to define due to the variety of situations that cannot be neatly classified as wild or domestic.

Both biological and socio-anthropological approaches share the aspect of human mastery on and use of domestic animal as resources: control exerted on movement and breeding, converting animals into property and goods as a food supply, product for industrial use, energy and labor force, and territory and herd defense Delort The utilitarian aspect of domestication has expanded since the eighteenth century Baratay Demographic and economic growth, together with industrialization and urbanization, strengthened the existing uses of domestic animals and brought new ones.

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The Industrial and Agricultural Revolutions increased the need for raw materials and a labor force to pull new machines, harvesters, and wagons. In addition, the boom of the textile industry exacerbated the demand for wool. Meat consumption was multiplied in some French cities by seven during the nineteenth century, together with the consumption of animal by-products.

The number of soap, oil, candle, leather, fertilizer, and perfume factories that used animal skin, bones, fat, and tendons increased considerably during that period Baratay Considering domesticated animals mainly in utilitarian terms is even mirrored in the indifference of zoological sciences to the study of domesticated animals, which was relegated to disciplines such as veterinary medicine and zootechnics the technology of animal husbandry that were concerned with the improvement of animals to fulfill human needs Digard It was precisely these aspects of control and use that were lost when pigeons became feral.

The alarmism regarding the number of pigeons could therefore be discussed in relation to the latent anxiety and public fear of the undominated presence of pigeons and thus a loss of control over pigeon reproduction and spread. It is compelling that the loss of the former use and subordination was taken as the principal element to designate and define feral individuals with a negative connotation. Hygiene issues were revealed to be a question of boundaries and space allocated to animals related to their status.

In fact, the current representation of pigeons as disturbing reflects the underlying discomfort with animals that no longer comply with human control and no longer show utility to society. In other words, we argue that the socio-nature of pigeons was produced in a human-animal network ordered by control and utilitarian relations of the first towards the latter. As pigeons went against the system rules, they became constructed as a nuisance species.

The structuration of the network has to be considered in the light of the nexus of power relations and dominant interests Heynen , Blaikie In light of Western ideas, it appears that the understanding of animals as subordinate and at service to human beings is a normative scheme relying on a dominant anthropocentric paradigm, which has been built and constantly renewed over time by the religious, intellectual, scientific, and public authorities, who had the cultural monopoly and the power to impose their schemes Breakwell In Western culture, the Judeo-Christian tradition is of particular importance to understanding the shaping and evolution of thoughts Baratay In particular, the Old Testament is the basis of a representation of animals as being subdued and serving human beings Delort Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything Genesis However, feral animals go against the anthropo-finality of Creation.

To take up the religious imagery, it is as if animals, through their feral state, would make humans go through the Fall again. The necessary connection between human dominion over animals with spiritual and symbolic human thought has already been highlighted as lying at the origins of animal domestication. The idea that animals were created with an anthropocentric finality has been transmitted through theology over the centuries. In the eighteenth century, Protestant and Catholic discourses affirmed that the horse had been created to carry human beings, sheep to provide them with wool, dogs as company, and so on.

As Baratay observed, this was more than a unidirectional influence, but rather a continuous interaction between religion and society, with the latter using the former as justification for its customs. These Judeo-Christian representations have been relayed using different authoritative currents of thought through scientific and philosophical justifications for animal subordination and use.

Conversely, animals were determined by inherited biological laws. Similarly, a key tenet of scholars of the Western Enlightenment, including Kant and Bacon, was also to affirm human separation from nature and its necessary mastery over nature Van der Born , Smith In much the same way, two centuries later, in the nineteenth century, the naturalist Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire defined the history of domestication as that of the development of human power, through which human beings became dominant over the other species and would have added supplementary ones to those appearing at the Creation Saint-Hilaire Though Darwin and other naturalists challenged the notion of the divine plan of the Creation, hierarchical patterns remained unchanged.

At the same time, in , French legal authorities reasserted human domination over animals, when elaborating the first law for the protection of domestic animals Loi Grammont and selecting animal usefulness for human beings as the criteria for the application of the law Pierre Although alternative perceptions also existed, animal representations in utilitarian and control terms remained the dominant view during the colonial era in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, notably through zoological gardens, which were used as a privileged laboratory in the Western undertaking to domesticate wild fauna completely and to discover potentially new uses for them Baratay Locked behind bars, they were presented as defeated and subdued, mirroring the colonial dream of overall dominion Digard ; Baratay The appropriation of the wild was a window into the colonial enterprise in general, with zoo animals being a symbol for the colonized people Hodak More generally, it is indeed worth noting that domestication is an archetype of other forms of subordination and utilitarianism Thomas The control and utilitarian relations in the domestication of animals at this period provided a domination model potentially extended to human beings, with inferiority criteria based on sex, ethnic or economic distinctions for example, women, American Indians, Africans, the poor; see, Mullin The remaining question here is what collective interests these moral and political institutions are powerfully protecting through their normative discourses on the human-animal hierarchy.

Our hypothesis is that human beings define themselves as a species precisely through their representations of utility and domination towards animals. Hence, they can define their own and unique place among, and above, the living. Representations of subdued animals can be viewed as a projection of human demarcation from and civilizing aspiration of their own natural state and mirror their interpretation of self as outside of animality.

The origin of the Belgian racing pigeon: from rock dove to carrier pigeon - part II

Because it is totally constructed by human beings, the city could be considered as the place par excellence for this self-definition. Social representation theory Moscovici and Hewstone conceptualizes identity as a location within representations, which would, beyond their cognitive and symbolic functions, include an identity function Moloney ; Miguel et al.

A reason driving the establishment of representations is here to assert and maintain a specific identity, as well as to valorize the group Cohen-Scali and Moliner, Thus, defined social identities are then credited with certain rights and duties Andreouli By reflecting social rules and relations, social representations function as guides for action, which legitimize and orient behaviors, and justify and influence social relations Miguel et al.

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The extent to which an identity and the representations related to it are shared within a group will thus also derive from the purpose they are serving and how significant it is for the group Breakwell We use this theory in an extended sense compared with only human-human social representations, as we include non-human beings animals, objects, and technologies as constitutive of the social world sensus , Latour As public and intellectual authorities are, as we showed, essential in defining and perpetuating normative representations of proper human-animal relations, we can consider that it is precisely the Western dominant paradigm that delineates human identity specifically in its utilitarian control in relation to animals.

Indeed, animal exploitation constituted a very important turning point in human history, starting with the transition from hunting and gathering to farming and food production during the Neolithic Revolution. These new human behaviors were accompanied by changes in settlement patterns, demography, social organization, or technology and allowed the development of most of what is considered human culture today Crabtree ; Driscoll et al.

We could, however, hypothesize further that by anchoring animal domination and use in human identity, the Western dominant paradigm makes animal exploitation an intrinsic in human identity rooted right and ensures as a consequence its social acceptance. Indeed, within a set of norms, beliefs and practices, it is much easier for everyone to adhere to the established pattern than to make changes.

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This dynamic can be linked to the overall externalization of nature in capitalist societies. In each historical period, pigeons were as much a vehicle for the creation and maintenance of social systems as they were a product of those systems. As soon as they stopped complying with the normative network dynamics and the dominant paradigm of valorizing or depreciating animals based on their function and subordination towards humans, they were themselves reformed as a nuisance species for the purpose of human identity construction.

This last aspect remains widely ignored when dealing with nuisance species in conservation issues. However, considering nuisance species as a type of socio-nature further allows turning the problem around; rather than a question of nuisance species, the current failure of the modern society to stop the biodiversity crisis despite such a high level of knowledge and power could be seen as being precisely grounded in the Western paradigm of environmental dominance and exploitation.

In that case, scientific authorities should be conscious of and reflective on their role and impact and lastly their responsibility to the development and structure of present-day environmental stances. Agosta SJ, Klemens JA: Ecological fitting by phenotypically flexible genotypes: implications for species associations, community assembly, and evolution. Ecol Letters , — Andreouli E: Identity, positioning and self-other relations. Papers on Social Representations , Revue d'histoire moderne et contemporaine , 41 3 — Revue d'histoire des sciences , 48 3 — Cahiers d'Histoire 3—4, L'animal domestique.

Cyrulnik ed. Essais sur la condition animale, Gallimard, Paris; — Baratay E: Le Grand Rapprochement. Alcan, Paris; Alfort, Paris; Accessed 1 Nov Blaikie P: A review of political ecology. Blechman AD: Pigeons. Grove Press, New York; Tissot, Paris; Monnoyer, Le Mans; Breakwell GM: Social representations and social identity.

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Papers on Social Representations , 2 3 :1— Bulletin Officiel Municipal de la ville de Paris Paris; Castree N, Braun B: Social nature. Blackwell, New York; Clim Change , — Clutton-Brock J: The unnatural world: behavioural aspects of humans and animals in the process of domestication. He describes how pigeons were used during the siege of Modena. Plinius was born in Combo, in northern Italy and he lived from 23 AD to 79 AD, the year in which he sailed to death aboard a galleon, heading for the erupting Vesuvius, while dictating notes to his writer.

Dr Darwin’s Waterloo Pigeon Dr Darwin’s Waterloo Pigeon
Dr Darwin’s Waterloo Pigeon Dr Darwin’s Waterloo Pigeon
Dr Darwin’s Waterloo Pigeon Dr Darwin’s Waterloo Pigeon
Dr Darwin’s Waterloo Pigeon Dr Darwin’s Waterloo Pigeon
Dr Darwin’s Waterloo Pigeon Dr Darwin’s Waterloo Pigeon
Dr Darwin’s Waterloo Pigeon Dr Darwin’s Waterloo Pigeon
Dr Darwin’s Waterloo Pigeon Dr Darwin’s Waterloo Pigeon

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