The American pet industry rakes in about $50 billion every year. In 1909, a hunting trip sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution brought back 11,397 specimens for potential display in the American Museum of Natural History. It’s clear that Americans’ desire to bring animals indoors — and under their control — has manifested itself in many different ways over time.
In this episode, we’ll look at how Americans have often projected their own desires onto the animals over which they have dominion. From the contributions made by pigs in the colonization of America to the lethal justice carried out on elephants centuries later, we’ll try to figure out if our relationships with animals have served as a sort of practice field for our relationships with each other.
Help Shape the Show: We’ve all had interesting experiences with domesticated animals. What’s your best story? Was your relationship to your childhood pet different from your relationship to your pet now? Any family stories of an aunt who bucked the law to fulfill her need for exotic birds? Let us know below, or at backstory-at-virginia.edu.