Timothy McGrath

Research, 2009

Timothy McGrath is a historian who received a grant from CAF to pursue his doctoral research about the history of representation of inhuman behavior. The result was “Behaving Like Animals: Human Cruelty, Animal Suffering, and American Culture, 1900–Present,” completed in 2013. The thesis states in part:

What does it mean to be cruel to an animal? What does it mean for an animal to suffer? These are the questions embedded in the term “cruelty to animals,” which has seemed, at first glance, a well defined term in modern America, in so far as it has been codified in anti-cruelty statutes. Cruelty to animals has been a disputed notion, though. What some groups call cruel, others call business, science, culture, worship, and art. Contests over the humane treatment of animals have therefore been contests over history, ideology, culture, and knowledge in which a variety of social actors—animal scientists, cockfighters, filmmakers, FBI agents, members of Congress, members of PETA, and many, many others—try to decide which harms against animals and which forms of animal suffering are justifiable. “Behaving Like Animals” examines these contests in the United States from the beginning of the twentieth century to the present, focusing on four practices that modern American animal advocates have labeled cruel: malicious animal abuse, cockfighting, intensive animal agriculture, and the harming of animals on film. These case studies broadly trace the contours of American attitudes toward human cruelty and animal suffering over the last century.