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University of Newcastle (2008)

Value to vermin : the donkey in Australia

Bough, Gillian Elizabeth

Titre : Value to vermin : the donkey in Australia

Auteur : Bough, Gillian Elizabeth

Université de soutenance : University of Newcastle.

Grade : Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) 2008

Résumé
This thesis maintains that the story of the donkey is an important contribution to the complex and contradictory story of human and nonhuman animal relationships in the West. It recovers the largely untold history of the donkey in Australia. It is argued that when donkeys were useful to the European colonisers of Australia, they were regarded as ’valuable’ animals ; once that use was outlines, however, the very reasons for the donkeys’ value, created the conditions for their current outcast status as vermin. The work is divided into three parts. Part One explores the long, close and complex relationships between donkeys and humans since the time of their domestication 10,000 years ago. It provides essential theoretical physiological, historical and cultural background to the arrival of donkeys into Australia and their subsequent journey from ’value’ to ’vermin’. Part Two relates the years of the donkey’s ’value’ in three regional case studies centred on South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory. It shows how donkeys were imported from Afghanistan in 1866 into South Australia during the Great Drought. From there, they journeyed to arid outback areas of western and northern Australia because they could survive where horses and bullocks could not. They worked in times of drought, cost nothing to feed and were not affected by the diseases that killed cattle and horses in the nineteenth century. They were formed into great teams, which are unique to Australia, as they hauled wool to ports and railheads or carted goods to isolated stations, playing a vital role in the economy of colonial Australia. However, with the advent of motorised transport in the 1930s, donkeys gradually became redundant to European colonisers and were set free. Part Three explores their experience in the outback after they were set free. Their numbers grew to such an extent that they were reputed to compete with cattle for food and were considered a nuisance by pastoralists generally, especially in the north eastern Kimberley of Western Australia and the Victoria River District of the Northern Territory. Donkeys were thenceforth socially constructed as "pests", "feral animals", and finally "vermin" in 1948. They are now accused of threatening the native biota in the ’fragile’ Australian environment and are targeted for complete eradication, aided by the Judas Collar Program. Having recounted the donkey’s journey from ’value’ to ’vermin’, the thesis highlights the current discriminatory double standard towards some introduced animals whereby donkeys are demonised and destroyed, while sheep and cattle continue to degrade the environment. It argues against the exclusionary and exploitative practices of anthropocentrism that has valued animals only for their use to humans. It considers instead the more recent biocentric, inclusionary approaches to nonhuman animals whereby both human and nonhuman animals are valued for their intrinsic worth. The thesis concludes that the story of the donkey highlights the anthropocentric attitudes that remain an important aspect of the complex and contradictory history of human and nonhuman animal relationships in Australia.

Mots clés : donkey ; Australia ; colonial Australia ; vermin

Présentation

Page publiée le 9 février 2018