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Human and Nonhuman Animals, Mutually at Risk: A Study of the Swiss Information Media

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Nowadays, relationships between nonhuman animals and humans are debated, often in relation to issues associated with the risks they represent for each other. On the one hand, new diseases and accidents indicate that animals are not as innocuous as they were long thought; on the other hand, the now questioned human impact on the natural environment is considered a risk for animals. This research analyzed these contrasting images of animals in the Swiss information media. Of the five main animal figures identified over the last 30 years, this paper focuses on the Undesirable Animal and the Victim Animal. These two figures have existed throughout the observed period; in contrast to Victim Animals, however, who appear fairly infrequently, Undesirable Animals have become more and more common in the last decade, usually in relation to a specific issue (such as the avian flu). This suggests that the media more often convey the dominant anthropocentric relationship to animals, reflecting a preoccupation with the protection of humans against dangerous animals, whereas the protection of animals from humans is considered less important. Recent controversies demonstrate, however, that the frontier between “us” and “them” is regularly renegotiated.

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