Filling the Ark: Animal Welfare In Disasters

Leslie Irvine / Temple University Press / 176 pages

In her book Filling the Ark, the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Associate Professor of Sociology, Leslie Irvine, asks the question “When a disaster strikes, who should enter the ark?” Indeed, a compelling question and one in which, to answer, we must contemplate how we truly view animals. Irvine discusses the value we place on animals: the high regard for our companion animals who are seen as part of the family, while others, such as those on factory farms, are often deemed nothing more than an inconvenient monetary loss during a disaster. An example of such distinctions is the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act which “requires states to include companion and service animals in their disaster response plans.” The Act, though certainly a step in the right direction, does not account for millions of other animals who “remain invisible to us.” Irvine demonstrates how our determined "value” of an animal affects his or her likelihood of surviving a disaster.

Examining both man-made and natural disasters and the culminating affects to animals, whether in the laboratory, zoo, factory farm or our own homes, Irvine discusses the sociozoologic scale. The system “ranks animals in a structure of meaning that allows humans to define, reinforce, and justify their interactions with other beings.” She delves into the “code of conduct” we have created and by which we judge animals for their ability or inability to adhere to our demands.

The author illustrates that humans are not the only victims in disasters and are often at fault for the perils animals suffer. She argues that it is our own decisions and actions that “make animals so vulnerable to disasters" and offers advice on the multiple ways animals may be made less vulnerable, not the least of which is to rethink “our uses of animals.”

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