My roommate, Olivia, became upset while I was talking with her a few evenings ago. She had received texts from her sister about her encounter with a raccoon. Her sister (Claire) went to the beach with her husband and they came across a limping raccoon that was bleeding. Claire directed foot traffic around the raccoon because it was assumed the animal had rabies. Animal control was called and a lady came out and shot the raccoon three times. Olivia was upset about these events and I initially thought that it was because the raccoon died. I questioned her and she believed that it was an overkill. She was not upset about the death of the raccoon because it was a mercy kill. She was upset because the lady shot it three times when she only had to shoot it once. At the time she didn’t seem like she wanted to talk much about it so I let it be. Today I decided to delve deeper and question her about the incident.
When I began to question her I focused on the ideas from Houser. That “disabled” animals are representations of human’s belief in the desired person. The wholeness of being symmetrical. Houser focuses on the images of non-humans in wheelchairs and focuses on the knowing without knowing. The belief that by showing these images humans can ignore the root of the problem that causes these deformities. That we are now able to ignore the institutions in society that produce this “suffering” in non-human others. In the concern of the raccoon, I asked Olivia if she thought of how the raccoon got to this condition in the first place. She said she didn’t know and then I asked about if they wanted to solve the “problem” why the lady didn’t search for the source of the rabies. It was seen as too difficult. It is too difficult to find the root of the problem, it is easier to kill the raccoon that was seen. I asked Olivia if she thought that the raccoon would have been killed if it hadn’t been seen. She said no, it wouldn’t and so I questioned her about whether it was really a mercy kill, if they only would kill an animal in pain if it was seen. In this case the raccoon was disturbing beachgoers. If humans were not present what would happen to the raccoon? Maybe it wasn’t the raccoon suffering that moved the people to kill it, but the disturbance of humans and their ideas on ableism that caused its ultimate death?
I diverged from Houser’s ideas and focused on Taylors at this point. We looked up the symptoms of rabies in animals. The main one I found was that the animal was acting strangely. What does that even mean? To be honest I thought that it was more clear-cut than that. But all the sights said to look for abnormal behavior presented by the animal. “Since that´s not the way wild animals usually act, you should remember that something could be wrong.”(Animals and rabies). The only true way to figure out if an animal has rabies is to kill it and biopsy pieces of its brain (Diagnosis in Animals). So in determining if the raccoon had rabies, all it had to do was act differently. The CDC states that “Approximately 120,000 animals or more are tested for rabies each year in the United States, and approximately 6% are found to be rabid” (Diagnosis in Animals). These odds demonstrate Taylor’s point that we incorporate animals into our perception and stereotypes on ableism. Such as the fox mercy killed by the hiker. However, rabies, I believe is an excuse used by many people to explain weirdness in non-human others. As we discussed more on this topic, Olivia told me a story about a cat that bit her when she was younger. I had a similar story, in both our mothers freaked us out and said we would have to get numerous shots. Luckily, in my case, the cat had an owner that vaccinated it. The cat in Olivia’s story was not as lucky. It was killed and came up negative for rabies. Olivia and her family were relieved but Olivia told me she was upset that the cat died and at the time did not know that the cat had been killed just for the test.
When discussing the raccoon’s death my other roommate was upset about the multiple shots. Both she and Olivia believed that the animal deserved more respect than that. I talked about how respect for a dead body was a major idea in human death and if we could kill humans with rabies. In all the sites I found they all said rabies killed the humans. Never did I see that they were shot to end their suffering. If it was okay in animals why not in humans? They both got mad at me and said the conversation was too frustrating and they had to study for finals.
I never thought that a simple clear cut story of a raccoon being shot for rabies would be much more than that. Now I am concerned that we are so easily lead to label non-human others and that this idea of ableism is being reinforced in the animal community and then stems to human ideas. Rabies causes paralysis and affects the central nervous system. I kept wondering how this disease eventually kills it host, but what about other neurodegenerative disease. If we can so easily kill non-human others without concrete evidence of their affliction who’s to say we can’t kill humans. The ideas of deformities, the ideas of who is able and who is not, seems to be reproduced in all aspects of society. It isn’t until we begin to question these ideas considered “concrete” facts can we begin to champion for social change. I believe that it starts with recognizing the atrocities we impose on the animal world. Which animals we choose to kill and why. How our actions can be seen to be representing a wider societal stereotype. I keep coming back to how the death of the raccoon was not sad, but that the shooting of it three times was appalling. It’s okay to kill an animal if it’s suffering, just don’t kill it too much.
“Animals and rabies” https://www.cdc.gov/rabiesandkids/amy.html
“Diagnosis in Animals” https://www.cdc.gov/rabies/diagnosis/animals-humans.html