Fabián O.Otálvaro Ramírez – Pets: Multispecies Family

The concept of family in the 21st century has been reconceptualized, as it focuses not only on the natural diversity between genera but also on what we call species. If we make a narrative of human development, we could say that man has been learning from the environment that sustains him, adapting his senses to survive. Through such becoming he has allowed himself to enter his group bosom to other beings of the world that surround him, perhaps as fellow travelers or as a tool to understand the physical and psychic universe in which he lives.

The family has been debated in two extremes as a natural or socio-cultural whole. Of these different theses that have been elaborated throughout history, for example, the Christians from the book of Genesis take the family as a union of the flesh that leaves their lineage, merely in a kind of reproductive exercise. On the other hand the Romans give virtue to the term family from the pater, someone who has the power within the consanguineous group; on the other hand, Friedrich Engels conceives the family from the socioeconomic aspects and as a unit that gives origin to the private property and to the state. And from another view looked at, in the 20th century, the legal concept of the family was generalized on the basis of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which in its article 16 states that “[…] the family is the natural and fundamental element of society and has the right to the protection of community and the state.

As we observe the term family has evolved, today we can speak of a family as a group of people who share traits of consanguinity, affections, and interests. However, this meaning is not yet very complete because over time the vision has been changing both individual and social about this term. It should be noted that this century has seen the opening up of great social freedoms; legal and philosophical conquests have broken with the traditional family scheme. A man and a woman are no longer included as founding and sole family members, today two women, two men, an uncle and a nephew, a grandmother and a grandson, or a dog and a man, are taken into account as a social unit, called family. In practice, this leads us to reflect and discuss the word for one that perhaps contains a broader and more varied concept of what would be the fundamental unit of society. Already some defenders of the rights of animal integration have approached a term such as the multispecies family, not only is the call made to genera but also to the direct link of the species with human society.

This is how dogs, cats, frogs, rabbits, snakes, mice, and a variety of other animals, which we call pets, could be added to the fundamental social unit to form an active part in the life of human beings, becoming protagonists of the term Family. In the words of Gerard Durell, a British naturalist, “A house is not a home until it has a dog.”

To account for how animals make their way into human society, and how this promotes a reconceptualization of the term family, we must observe that historically some animals have been part of essential cultures, for example, the Egyptians worshipped cats, their dogs were respected and no one could hurt them because they were condemned to death. Some evidence was captured in papyrus and stones, others in paintings that show that they were part of the royal society and their cohorts. There the subjects protected the animals with their lives because they were the property of the castle, they were sumptuous beings for the personal amusement or taken into account as beings that had contact with the dark and diabolical.

Nowadays, thanks to photography, social networks, and the Internet, the world of pets is a different one. Since they have become active characters within homes; so much so that they no longer inhabit the backyard or the main entrance to the house, but occupy a special place inside the house, they have become another member of the family. They have ceased to be something that breathes to become a being that feels and may perhaps have certain types of emotions. In this sense, governments have promoted and enacted laws for their protection under this new vision; in this sense, governments have encouraged and passed laws for their protection according to this new vision. This fact generates a proper integration of the animals in the human groups, which allows him simultaneously a full recognition in the scale of social rules, it is no longer a thing, it is a being with rights.

How have animals managed to integrate and gain ground in the human layers?

The Greeks initiate this link with mythological gods that intertwine or become animals, perhaps aligning their physical ability with the psychological and emotional human. The world advances and other cultures emphasize the teachings through the fable, short written text in which the protagonists are the animals. They can speak personifying human consciousness and with this teach rules, decrees or laws as available. In fact, we all remember some of these writings of yesteryear, between lines one of these writings is: the ugly duckling, which was not really a duck but a swan, leading us to ask, who really? Not too far back in time, in the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church used animals to elaborate the scene of the birth of the redeemer and with it to reproduce his speech in a pleasant and easy to remember way. They have shown us that we are no strangers to the other living beings that surround us since in some way we make use of them.

The 19th century gave way to industrialization, and with it, a great advertising offer about unique products for pets. Propaganda in which the canine or feline is equated with a human being. They resemble behaviors with human babies of three years of age, sensitizing the conscience of the public object. This state that is promoted has a particular purpose of something like, “you are responsible for the emotional states and of the health in your animals.” The indissoluble unity between the human and the animal is promoted in practice. It can be a dog, a cat, a hare, a pig, a horse or any other that can be domesticated, giving way to new members of the family in the 21st century; therefore we have: veterinarians, zootechnics, toy stores, hairdressers, dentists, hospitals, funeral services and more for our pets.

Without a doubt, the advance of technology and the media have allowed these actors and members of the modern family, the multispecies, to make their way in social circles. Since we humanize them, we have given them a specific role in the maternal or paternal nucleus, perhaps the one that comforts, the one that amuses, the one that accompanies, in short, parts that will depend on the family; we could say that we have done a neurolinguistic self-programming of inclusion of the “Pets”.