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BBC4 Timeshift: the importance of looking

2013 November 17
regents park elehant

Walking an elephant through Regent’s Park, November 1983

I was interviewed earlier in the year for a BBC 4 programme on zoos and the changing animal-human relationship. The film will be broadcast this week. Unfortunately, my contribution was cut from the final edit because of an apparent shift in emphasis.

However, you can catch me speaking on the Timeshift website accompanying the programme entitled ‘The importance of looking’ .  My view is in contrast to the position of John Berger who has argued that public zoos came into existence at a time when animals started to disappear from everyday life. As I explored in Animal Rights, this was not the case. Animals continued to play significant roles in the domestic life of city dwellers both as objects of affection and as the mainstay of the transportation (and food) system. (They were also seen in their thousands being driven through city streets on their way to markets and to slaughter. This sight was an impetus both for the ‘Martin’s Act’ of 1822 and for the closure of Smithfield market as a venue for live animals.) What changed was that certain animals outside those in individual human ownership became objects of the gaze.


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