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The Political Economy Of Pets
Nearly every normal family has one, and why not? They’re cute and cuddly, they love you, and people love them. After all, pets are normal commodities, owned by normal people. In this paper I will be examining the political economy of pets.
First of all you may be thinking “do pets have a political economy?” Well, of course they do. The first article I stumbled across, and the article that truly inspired the theme of this paper, is “Go Go Dog!’ And German Turks’ Demand For Pet Dogs” by A. Caglar. In this article the author discusses the functions of the pets that the German Turks own. There are three categories of dogs that are owned: The fighting dog, the guard dog, and the lap dog. Each dog serves a specific purpose, and therefore has certain ideal traits with which to serve that purpose. A guard dog is protective, and frightening; a fighting dog is macho, strong, and fierce; a lap dog is affectionate and loveable. People desiring to supplement their current identities with such traits own such dogs. The dog’s qualities become a part of the person’s image, and even status. I agree with the overview that Caglar presented in this article. Pets add certain qualities to their owners by their actions, pedigrees, breeds, and behavior. In this paper I will be referring to dogs, as they are stereotypically the most common pet choice from within our culture.
In America today, there are 43,143,849 dog owners owning a total of 61,542,900 million dogs. Of those 43,143,849 dog owners, 28,539,216 purchase Christmas gifts for their dogs. By examining that fact alone it is not surprising that the pet industry is expected to rake in $30 billion by the year 2003. The enormous growth of the pet industry is due to the new trend that shows Americans are becoming more interested in owning pets and less in the dwindling rate of population growth. Entrepreneurs acting on this trend seem to have struck it rich in regards to a consumer market. Marketing and training programs were instated to educate the general public about responsible pet ownership. The message the marketing campaign chose was perhaps the most interesting part of the entire pet industry phenomenon. By conveying pets as vulnerable and loving the marketing campaign advocated that pets were more than just pets, they were like “surrogate children.” As the campaign came underway specialty pet products sprung up. Pet stores sprang up in shopping centers across America. The specialization of the modes of distribution for these pet products created an entire new discourse for pets as special. The more-than-just-pets mentality was like a seed planted in a fertile mind.
Competition in the specialty pet food market further defined the discourse surrounding pets and their ownership. Supermarket brands of pet food started to manufacture specialty brands. Distribution channels became more common and as market competition drove entrepreneurs in search of an untapped market, the Internet business became the next logical step. We’ve all seen the Petco ads, and commercials or online pet stores. With the shop-at-home convenience of the Internet, retail pet stores expanded their services out to the community. By strengthening their ties with the community, and by making moves like getting rid of some selections of pets by substituting them with shelter adoption programs, the retail stores increased their business.
The online expansion of the business has a few very interesting methods to snag buyers. The pet sections of sites like discovery.com and amazon.com claim affiliations with the ASPCA and other well-known animal organizations. By tapping into the loyalty our culture feels for such institutions that do such service for pets, new customer loyalties are manipulated and the market secures a future.
So why do people spend so much on their pets? It just so happens that the current economy that we live and participate in creates a substantial amount of disposable income. Therefore the multitudes can afford to pamper their pets. It is probable that an economic downturn could put a quick end to the exorbitant prices we pay to provide for our pets.
Regardless of whether the market has a downturn, future competition will definitely entail differentiation and a trend toward distinction. The market will be divided up further; specialties will become even more specialized. Pets will thus become more special.
Perhaps the most important aspect of the practice of owning pets is the way in which people use pets to supplement their identities. In Germany, young German Turks have taken a liking to fighting dogs. Keeping dogs is hardly a valid tenant of the Turkish culture, but having a fighting dog is becoming a trend. Some youths that were interviewed for the article by Caglar, referred to the dogs as if they were jewelry, “nowadays everyone wants to wear one on his hand.” The dogs and their owners formed a grouping with other young German Turks and their dogs. As the men became associated with the dogs, people’s ideas of them changed. The young men seemed tougher, more macho. Men walking through the streets with the.............
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