“Our relationships with animals are haunted by death. It lingers in the liminal space of the soul in grief—in painful recognition when a beloved cat, rabbit, parrot, or dog passes; in the confused stricken anonymity of worldwide extinctions; and in the palpable suffering behind factory walls. In its lyrical marriage of personal experience and scholarship, Mourning Animals brings together the beauty, love, and exquisite poignancy of what it means to live with animal kin.”
—G. A. Bradshaw, author of Elephants on the Edge and director of the Kerulos Center
We live more intimately with nonhuman animals than ever before in history. The change in the way we cohabitate with animals can be seen in the way we treat them when they die. There is an almost infinite variety of ways to help us cope with the loss of our nonhuman friends—from burial, cremation, and taxidermy; to wearing or displaying the remains (ashes, fur, or other parts) of our deceased animals in jewelry, tattoos, or other artwork; to counselors who specialize in helping people mourn pets; to classes for veterinarians; to tips to help the surviving animals who are grieving their animal friends; to pet psychics and memorial websites.
But the reality is that these practices, and related beliefs about animal souls or animal afterlife, generally only extend, with very few exceptions, to certain kinds of animals—pets. Most animals, in most cultures, are not mourned, and the question of an animal afterlife is not contemplated at all.
Mourning Animals investigates how we mourn animal deaths, which animals are grievable, and what the implications are for all animals.
Margo DeMello is an adjunct professor in the anthrozoology master’s program at Canisius College and the program director for Human-Animal Studies at the Animals and Society Institute.
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