Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Pit Bull Deniers

The article below first appeared in Sierra Magazine.1 Though the subject is climate change nearly all the arguments apply equally to advocates of fighting breeds, many of whom ignore or deny that pit bulls are disproportionately responsible for fatal attacks on humans.

It's doubtful that the author, Jake Abrahamson, thought his article would reverberate in the world of pit bull politics. It may be that he would not agree with our appropriation of his ideas about climate change deniers. But many of us who dwell in the galaxy of pit bull politics believe that the pit bull wars, like climate change, constitute a new cultural war.

In a discussion of fatal dog attack statistics, you will often find the advocate of fighting breeds peering intently at an invisible spot on the wallpaper. If you show a pit bull denier statistics which prove that pit bulls and other fighting breeds are responsible for nearly all fatal attacks on humans, the denier's eyes quickly glaze over. This is a dispute in which facts are all-important but to the deniers the facts are irrelevant.

Following the Sierra article are brief excerpts from two previous SRUV posts about denial and the culture wars.

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What Makes Climate Deniers Tick
Hint: It's not the science; it's the culture
by Jake Abrahamson
No matter how many scientific papers point toward climate change, some people refuse to be convinced. A PEW Research Center poll in June found that American's views on whether the planet is heating up have barely changed since 2006, despite growing scientific consensus and an increasing number of climate-related disasters. The reason for that stasis, Andrew Hoffman argues in How Culture Shapes the Climate Change Debate (Stanford University Press, 2015), is that a person's belief in climate change has little to do with an assessment of the science and everything to do with their preexisting values, social web, and world view. Climate skeptics are often focused on "protecting deeply held values they believe are under attack," he writes. For stakeholders in dirty fuels or proponents of limited government, acceptance of climate change would require a dramatic reorientation of their values and sense of self, because dealing with the issue will likely involve the end of fossil fuels and greater regulatory powers for government.

Hoffman, a professor of sustainable enterprise at the University of Michigan, first lays out the psychological and social biases people bring to the climate discussion and then suggests techniques for making that conversation more productive. (A combination of empathy and clever framing is key.) This slender, practical volume will aid anyone hoping to sway climate deniers -- whether on facebook, from a podium, or over a beer.
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from Canine Cognition; SRUV, January 24, 2014

We can be grateful to Mr. Homans for confronting the larger issue; in the early pages he notes that pit bulls are a political issue. This is an insight of great moral courage. We have suffered through four great conflicts during our cultural wars: abortion, gun rights, immigration, and gay rights. Now we may be embarking on our fifth. The politics of dogs are a reflection, distilled and distorted, of the politics of people. Like our previous cultural wars the problem of pit bulls is intractable because it crosses social, economic, gender, and educational boundaries, and because our convictions about pit bulls are based on emotions and faith. Which means that, much like the previous culture wars, the pit bull wars seem intractable.

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from Carolinas Under Siege; SRUV, September 4, 2015

Deniers: first there were those who denied the Earth was round. Then there were those who denied the Earth circled the Sun. There were some who refused to believe that Apollo 11 landed on the moon, but instead was filmed on a sound stage or in New Mexico. In our times there have been the Holocaust deniers and the Climate Change deniers.

Now we have the Huffington Post, with their stable of writers who deny that pit bulls, in disproportionate numbers, launch unprovoked attacks and kill or maim members of their human family or a More Vulnerable Animal Companion.

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1   Sierra is the magazine of the Sierra Club. The article appeared in the September/October 2015 issue.

Statistics quoted on SRUV are from the nation's authoritative source for current dog attack statistics, the 32+ year, continuously updated Dog attack deaths and maimings, U.S. & Canada.
View or download the current PDF

Dog Bite Studies Index

Today's pit bull attacks
   Google News

This page may also include information from Dogsbite & Fatal Pit Bull Attacks.

SRUV uses the definition of "pit bull" as found in the Omaha Municipal Code Section 6-163. As pit bulls are increasingly crossed with exotic mastiffs, Catahoula Leopard Dogs and other breeds, the vernacular definition of "pit bull" must be made even more inclusive.

Sources cited by news media sometimes refer to "Animal Advocates" or sometimes "Experts." In many cases these words are used to refer to single-purpose pit bull advocates who have never advocated for any other breeds or species of animals. Media would be more accurate to refer to these pit bull advocates as advocates of fighting breeds.

Similarly, in many cases pit bull advocates refer to themselves as "dog lovers" or "canine advocates" and media often accepts this usage. The majority of these pit bull advocates are single-purpose advocates of fighting breeds.