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Horse Maiming in the English Countryside: Moral Panic, Human Deviance, and the Social Construction of Victimhood

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image of Society & Animals

The societal reaction to a series of horse assaults in rural Hampshire during the 1990s was a rare example of a moral panic about crime and deviance in which animals other than humans occupy, or seemed to occupy, the central role of victim. This paper explores how the nature of the relationships between humans and animals is revealed through authoritative utterances about offenders and victims by the mass media, the police, and the humans who felt they had a stake in the horses' well-being. Analysis of how and when victimhood is ascribed to animals helps to uncover the invisible assaults routinely inflicted on them - in the name of business or pleasure, for example - and against whose human perpetrators the categories of criminalization are almost never applied.

Affiliations: 1: University of Wales, Bangor, Wales, UK; 2: University of Southern Maine, USA


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