Reproducing Dominion: Emotional Apprenticeship In The 4-H Youth Livestock Program
Researchers examined how children in 4-H programs interact with and view the animals they raise and then sell to slaughter. They find that there is an active socialization process through which the children learn emotions that make both caring for animals and killing them acceptable. They learn to emotionally distance themselves from animals by not naming them, for example, and rely on socially accepted justifications for their deaths, such as that livestock only exist to die or that the money from selling animals goes toward college.
“This paper examines young people’s socialization into the doctrine known as “dominionism,” which justifies the use of animals in the service of human beings. Using qualitative research, it focuses on the 4-H youth livestock program, in which boys and girls raise cattle, pigs, goats, and sheep for slaughter. The analysis portrays 4-H as an apprenticeship in which children learn to do cognitive emotion work, use distancing mechanisms, and create a “redemption” narrative to cope with contradictory ethical and emotional experiences. Although this paper focuses on young people’s relationships with animals, and particularly with types of animals that have received little scholarly attention, the conclusions have implications for understanding the reproduction of inequalities, more generally. An understanding of the means through which people learn to justify the treatment of the animals known as “livestock” can shed light on the mechanisms involved in generic processes of inequality.”