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  • Writer's pictureChristopher Sebastian

For animal allies, Mother's Day is a given. But we're less quick to celebrate dads. Why?

On Mother’s Day, many animal rights allies pay respects online to all the parents who had their children stolen by violent industries who don’t respect their bodily autonomy. But those social media posts are harder to find a few weeks later when Father’s Day rolls around.

I’ve talked before about how the reproductive injustice of forced breeding is not limited to only the parent who bears the child, and how semen collection is a violation of the other parent as well. But beyond the sexual violence carried out by human hands, there is a passive erasure of male relationships with their offspring that also occurs.

Father-child bonds exist throughout animal societies, but they are commonly overlooked. Western society often discourages human men from expressing complex emotions other than anger and aggression. Do we impose this toxic culture onto non-human males as well?

In many bird species, both parents share the responsibility of incubating eggs and feeding their young. Perhaps even more interestingly, in larger bird species like emus and rheas, the male is often the sole keeper of the nest.

In a study in the American Journal of Primatology, researchers compared the responses of experienced and inexperienced marmoset and tamarin fathers when confronted with the sound of a distressed infant monkey coming from another cage. One hundred percent of the experienced fathers quickly crossed a bridge to reach the source of the distress cry within 45 seconds.

The inexperienced fathers took up to 5 minutes. But whatever. At least they made the effort?

The researchers also determined that fathers were the primary carriers immediately postpartum, and they allowed their carry time to gradually decrease as infant aged. By comparison, mothers rejected infants immediately postpartum and maternal infant carrying remained low and relatively consistent throughout the study.

So given this understanding of the role male-presenting animals play in child rearing, why do we underestimate the agency of male animals to exhibit loving, nurturing paternal characteristics?

It's even more disturbing to consider that Father's Day throughout the west is commonly observed by men outdoor grilling or barbecuing the remains of families that have been separated, confined, tortured, and murdered.

In fact, some brands directly antagonize people (especially men) who reject this type of masculinity in favor of honoring the bodies of other animal persons.

The rituals of toxic masculinity as demonstrated through this normalized violence should not be lost on anyone who cares about families at all. We should recognize fathers of all species, from the ones whose children are directly commodified as products to the fathers whose families are displaced by human habitat destruction. To all the animal dads out there this Father’s Day, we see you. And we honor you.

And just for fun, here’s a link to a Dodo video featuring a senior feral cat who adopts kittens…and teaches them how to #cat.

Happy Father’s Day.

For more about meat and masculinity, read Carol J. Adams seminal work The Sexual Politics of Meat. If you like this blog, share posts with your friends, or find some of these links useful, please consider contributing to my Patreon to keep this work going.

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Aug 29, 2019

Interesting piece. I know this is a bit of a tangent from the point of this article, but doing anti-speciesism outreach in Santa Barbara, we actually refrain from referring to animals using either of the binary genders. This is to reflect the fact that 1) gender is a human construct and because we cannot know someone's gender by examining their body, it is inaccurate to refer to animals as "he", "she", "mother", "father", "male", or "female", and b) to do so perpetuates cisnormativity/transphobia among their human allies. I could see another argument for this linguistic practice is that it may assist in dismantling the sexist notions humans have about the respective roles of each parent and our projection of those…

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