Step right up Folks!

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Introducing Mickey, the latest addition to my boyfriends family. Mickey is a 3.5-month-old Eclectus parrot, with a love for food and a passion for chirping at early hours of the morning.

Mickey has now turned into the third son of the household, when mumma goes shopping she constantly repeats “gotta get this for my baby boy, only the fresh and best fruits and seeds.” When I asked which son she was talking about, she looked at me puzzled and replied, “Mickey.”

Isn’t it odd that we tend to interact with animals as if they are humans? Feeding them ‘human food’, speaking them and expecting them to respond, teaching them to talk and sit, and in extreme cases dress them up in little outfits, this can be referred to as anthropomorphism. Anthropomorphism is “ascribing human characteristics to nonhuman things.” “Neuroscience research has shown that similar brain regions are involved when we think about the behavior of both humans and of nonhuman entities, suggesting that anthropomorphism may be using similar processes as those used for thinking about other people.”

However, it is to be considered that through anthropomorphism there are implications that can arise. Such implications can be seen through thinking an animal, for instance, has similar moral and ‘caring’ consideration like humans, while also being held accountable for their actions – they became deserving of an award or punishment.

Round-up, Round-up. cmiwqh8vaaaox15-147188.jpg

Bright lights, lavish costumes, acrobats and the cutest animals jumping through rings of fire and submitting to their ring leader. All sounds like a show worth watching.

However,  the circus is the main domain for animal cruelty. Trainers use animal cruelty methods to train animals, which are kept in cramped and confined spaces especially when travelling from town to town.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, known as PETA is the largest animal rights organisation in the world. PETA breaks down circuses into three rings of abuse:

A Life Far Removed From Home

The nature of the circus is travelling from city to city, therefore supplying animals with an inadequate supply of the main supplies such as water, food and veterinary care. Naturally circus animals have a nature of constant activity, however living a life in the circus forces them to be stored in confined areas and are permitted to leave their cages only when performing. For example, elephants are kept in “leg shackles that prevent them from taking more than one step in any direction. The minimum requirements of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA)are routinely ignored.” When circuses are not in motion, animals are subjected to travelling in barn stalls or trucks for long periods of times, this often causes physical and psychological effects on the animals. These effects can be identified through unnatural forms of behaviours  elephant-topper.jpgsuch as head-bobbing, pacing and swaying.

Beaten Into Submission

Physical punishment is considered to be a “standard training method”, where animals are beaten, shocked etc. constantly to make them perform. However, in some cases, the animals may be drugged making them
manageable“, also surgically remove the teeth and claws of others.

Animals Rebel

Often as a result of stress, pressure and abuse, the animals can snap in retaliation. An example of this is Flora the elephant, who had been previously forced to perform in a circus and when transferred to Miami Zoo attacked a zookeeper.

Most recently, a case of animal cruelty and anthropomorphic abuse has been shut down. May of 2016 Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced the final retirement of their herd of elephants at Center for Elephant Conservation in central Florida. It is said that the retirement marked “the end of an era for the elephants”. This comes as a result of animal rights groups critiquing and suing the company for their treatment of animals. ringlingbrosandbarnum_bailey.jpg

As of January of this year, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus formally announced their decision to remove elephants from their shows has led to the closure of the 146-year-old company. This has come about from the pressure of animal rights group which has instantly affected their ticket sales.

The retirement of the company comes from the backlash of animal activist, former Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus employee Archele Hundley spoke to PETA about witnessing elephant abuse. “I saw handlers deliver a beating … for 30 minutes. She was covered with bloody wounds. I’ll never forget her agonizing screams,” says Hundley. “Please, never take your children to a Ringling Bros. circus.”

Anthropomorphism has desensitised its audiences. It is common that we are blinded by their apparent abilities to act on command and depict human-like responses. We must consider the implications behind their ‘talents’. We aren’t whipped each time we refuse a command, so why should they be?

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There is more than meets the eye.

It’s the little-malnourished girl that stares at you, it’s the little boy washed up on the shore. And it’s the mother and father holding their dying baby.

This is what we are confronted with when charities and media want to expose and prompt audiences, of the poverty around the globe.

The following images can be identified through the term ‘poverty porn‘. Poverty porn is “known as development porn or even famine porn, is any type of media, be it written, photographed or filmed, which exploits the poor’s condition in order to generate the necessary sympathy for selling newspapers or increasing charitable donations or support for a given cause.” It is a strategy that causes us to think “What can I do to help”? We are left feeling conflicted whether to post and share these devastating image with the world or to donate “hey any amount will help”. However, it is a term used to exploit poverty.

It is these organisations that expose the worst of poverty, they highlight the misery and suffering. Promoting the ‘if’ and ‘when’, what happens if you do donate and what happens if you do not. Poverty porn maintains this idea that, third world countries are filled with misery and suffering.

However in the video above, it shows that some of these kids who live in the worst possible conditions are happy, they create positive outcomes for themselves. It is videos like these that expose an alternative perspective on poverty, while poverty is faced with suffering and heartache. There are slums throughout the world that aim to change their way of lives, they want their minority to progress.

In this TEDx talk, Erica Hangan is the co-founder of ‘Map Kibera’, an organisation that aims to empower these communities and put them on the map through open data, open mapping, citizen media and participatory processes. In the following video, Erica expresses how so many slums in huge cities are not identified on their maps, their aim using locals is to put the slum of Kibera on the map. And through this exploration, it is astounding to see a number of facilities that are crammed into this small place, and the economy these people have built for themselves.

 

In 2015 twitter users coined the hashtag #TheAfricaTheMediaNeverShows, it was platform young African’s were able to use to fightback against their ‘poverty stricken identity’. Screen Shot 2017-03-22 at 12.51.50 PM.pngPhotos were posted using the hashtag of the beautiful landscapes, jobs, universities etc. attracting over 42,000 tweets. Each and every tweet was a pushed to break the African stereotype, another twitter user posted a photo collage of four photos. Each different from the other to emphasise that not all of Africa is the same, making the following statement “Africa is not a country, Africa is a continent made up of 56 countries. Africans do not all look alike. Africa is not defined by poverty. I don’t speak “African” because African is not a
language
“.

The objectification and exploitation of poverty through media is under scrutiny and empowers the wrong people. Such stereotypes portray societies in a negative way where these reputations can hold. An example of this is SBS documentary ‘Struggle Street‘, a  documentary depicting stereotypes of lower socio-economic suffering. 5dc837b8-36d5-4ccb-a23f-6c523a1e1ec9.jpeg

The series was designed to show the struggles and suffering of poverty in the western area of Mt Druitt, aiming to expose the ‘raw reality’ of a south-west suburb. SBS’s Marshall Heald said that “Struggle Street will seek to raise awareness and deepen our understanding of those of us in the community facing social and economic hardship through an honest reflection of what it’s like to be doing it tough in Australia today.” However the show enhanced the negative stereotype Mt Druitt had received, Threadgold argues that the show is “denigrating The undeserving poor, scapegoating and even pathologising them as figures of loathing, while completely ignoring the harsh structural economic realities that create such poverty in the first place.

Blacktown Mayor Stephen Bali was “appalled” after seeing the first episode. “What I saw wasn’t a documentary, it was simply publicly-funded poverty porn“, after meeting with SBS management he expressed “With all the funding cuts in the local area with domestic violence and … the whole heap of great education facilities that are losing funding, to spend $1 million on this crap, it shouldn’t happen”.

This stereotype, we’re over it, and it shouldn’t happen and SBS has just taken the worst aspects of it and put it into a so-called documentary“.

Poverty porn exploits degrades and stereotypes a minority based on how the media gather their understanding and frame their portrayal of a minority. Who are we trying to empower, us or them?

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