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Named, numbered or anonymous: How the Human-Animal Relation affects the naming of individual animals

Stefan Aerts


Pages 309 - 318



Seven human-animal relations (or animal categories) can be distinguished. These can be located in a cartesian plane with two axes, a horizontal axis with the amount of veterinary costs considered reasonable, and a vertical axis with a proxy of how problematic the death of the animal is. The way people relate to animals is a strong predictor of whether animals are given names, numbers, or whether they remain anonymous. In general, animals in the upper right corner of the first quadrant (death highly unwanted, high veterinary costs) are given individual names, and animals in the same quadrant, but close to the origin, can be considered ‘numbered animals’, while those in the lower left regions (third quadrant) are generally ‘anonymous animals’.

This analysis clarifies why some animals of a certain category are named while others are not. The different categories inevitably overlap, and some are stretched widely across the graph. E.g. zoo animals are given names, not other wild animals; as are horses, unlike most hobby animals (such as rare poultry). It also helps to explain why it was common to name all cattle until a few decades ago, but nowadays this is usually only the case for bulls.

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