Animal Cruelty and the Animal in the Human

A review of Stephanie Snow’s “Dog Fight” (In Unearthed: The Speculative Elements Series Volume 3, Third Person Press, Cape Breton, N.S., 2012).
By Derek Newman-Stille

Cover Photo for UnEarthed Courtesy of Third Person Press

Werewolves are traditionally figures of excessive masculinity – excessively hairy, excessively aggressive, and excessively woodsy. They often embody characteristics associated with masculine stereotypes. It is therefore exciting that Stephanie Snow presents queer werewolves in her short story “Dog Fight”. Unlike a lot of authors who write about queer subject matter, she does not make the queerness the defining feature of these werewolves, but rather an aspect of their wider identity. Also, unlike many authors, she does not feel the need to feminise gay men, but rather presents them as highly masculine figures – a werewolf who engages in the sport of dog fighting and his partner who negotiates with others involved in the dog fights.

Snow uses the werewolf narrative and the context of the dog fight as a method of critically engaging with the idea of animal cruelty and the human disregard for animals. By using the figure of the werewolf, a figure in the body of an animal, but with a human viewpoint and subjectivity, she allows the reader to engage with the animal perspective as it and other animals are pushed to engage in competition for human enjoyment. Although focused on animal cruelty in dog fights, Snow encourages her readers to think about the way we submit animals to our needs and desires overall, making them incidental casualties to human greed and the oppression of nature. She illustrates that animalistic figures are not the monsters of our society, but are rather oppressed victims of human control.

Like many werewolf narratives, Snow uses the werewolf to explore notions of human civility and the thin veneer of human civilisation that allows us to ignore all of the monstrous subcurrents of human nature. She illustrates that it is not the animalistic, instinctual part of human nature that should be feared, but the repression of that nature, the systems of chains and controls that we place on our perceived animalistic side that actually only provide a mechanism for justifying our cruelties.

To read more about the Speculative Elements Series, visit Third Person Press at http://www.thirdpersonpress.com/