is a snazzy sounding word which means...according to this dictionary site: "to remove from a context." It's sort of in the vicinity of another interesting word, deconstruction, which has as one of its meanings: "the analytic examination of something (as a theory) often in order to reveal its inadequacy." Deconstruction also has meaning much beyond the one quoted above that you can find here.
Some time ago I was reading some writing by a young woman who works with survivors of domestic violence. She was noting that one of the arguments that is presented to emphasize how lightly or inadequately this very serious and awful issue is regarded is the statement that there are 3 times as many animal shelters in the United States as there are shelters for women and children who are victims of domestic violence.
I was sort of surprised at that data initially, in the way that such a decontextualed presenting of the information is apparently designed to accomplish. I first thought how unsettling that we have triple the facilities to protect animals as we do to protect women and children...but...my thinker didn't stop there. And...more digging by my thinker led me to see that there was something sort of hinky and manipulative in making such a statement...even though it was true...at least on the face of it.
A few days ago I was having an exchange online with someone wherein they were asserting something that I was having a hard time understanding, so I wrote them about some of my concerns. In their response they threw that same 3 times statement at me and asserted that it served to confirmed their stance. This time I did a little investigating.
Apparently that statement is based on some data from 1990, that can be found here, where it says there are 1,500 shelters for battered women and 3,800 shelters for animals in the U.S. Obviously 3 x 1,500 is more than 3,800 but this bit of data is close enough for presuming that this source is one basis for the 3 times assertion. More up to date data indicates there are around 5,000 animal shelters and around 3,361 providers of services for domestic violence victims. That isn't even close to 3 x...but...there are still more shelters for animals than resources for domestic violence victims. If you search for that 3x ratio, you find that it is used in many places as some sort of argument that we care more about animals than human victims of domestic violence. For instance, a page associated with Arizona State University touts this "shocking" bit of data.
That's really not the problem with the 3x meme...the problem is that it is thrown around without referencing context. You have to look at the respective size of the populations involved, as well as other factors, for the data to make any kind of useful sense...unless you're just trying to win a dispute and don't really care about accuracy and comprehension. Which, from what I can tell, is most often the context in which that notion is used.
One very important bit of information to take into account is the number of victims of domestic violence as compared to the number of animals who are at risk for violence against them. If we consider this additional information, the 3 x thing starts to look a little strange. For arguments sake let's presume that every female in the U.S. is a victim of domestic violence...that would mean about 150 million females (I'm including both adult and child females into this number) are theoretically victims of domestic violence...if we divide 3,361 (the number of providers of domestic violence services) into the number of victims we can see how many victims there are for each provider. That number comes to around 45,000 victims for each provider. (150 million divided by 3,361)
Of course not all females are victims...I'm using the biggest number possible simply to illustrate the rather fantastic goofiness that's present here.
Ok, let's do the same thing for animal shelters. One source says 10 billion land animals are killed each year in the United States...and that excludes how many sea animals (another 20 billion) are killed each year. If we use the 10 billion figure for increasing our understanding, we would need to divide that population by the number of animal shelters and that would come to 2 million. (10 billion divided by 5,000)
So, using the calculations above, based on a large overestimate of human victims and a big underestimate of animal victims we see that for each shelter for humans there are about 45,000 potential users and for each animal shelter there are abut 2 million potential users. Uh...that sort of makes the 3 x thingee look sort of...well...screwy.
And...that's not all there is to the context. When the term shelter is used for animals, that includes (I'm presuming) all the small and large taxpayer funded municipal and county type operations. Guess what happens to animals that end up there? Most of them...sooner or later...unless the animal is rescued from the shelter...are killed. Shelter is a misleading term...these are (not all of them, but most of them) actually places where animals are killed for human convenience. And...most of the places included in that 5,000 animal shelters are just that type of death camp...the number of sanctuaries and/or rescues where animals are safe is much much smaller. I looked a little for a breakdown of safe places versus kill places and found that to be rather hard to find. You can do your own investigating of that if you're so inclined.
Maybe the best way to think about it is this...how many taxpayer funded shelters for animals are actually devoted to saving lives versus being devoted to scooping up non-human affiliated animals and killing them? There are none in my area...every tax funded operation around here is a place of death...if no human takes the animal out of the "shelter" then that "rescued" animal is killed.
One source says that 3.5 million of the 5 million "companion animals" entering "shelters" annually (that excludes those beings 'routinely' killed for "food") are executed. That's not much of a shelter...as far as I know...that's not what happens at places that provide services to human victims of domestic violence. So...not only are the numbers misleading...even the term "shelter" is misleading. Using screwy numbers and screwy language in the same statement...ouch.
I responded to the person who used the 3 to 1 ratio with only the information about population size...I didn't even add that using the word "shelter" for places of refuge for human victims of domestic violence versus that same word for a place of death for animals...and pointed out the error in the statement. The response I got back was...none...they just ignored the information.
Discussions or exchanges or presentations of information can be used to get closer to reality or truth or they can be used to try to get agreement...or both. I'm much more interested in trying to ascertain truths and/or reality than I am (usually anyway) in trying to achieve agreement. My notion is that truth/reality is the important part and agreement and/or disagreement regarding a perspective to that truth/reality is secondary. Agreement is nice...but jeez...if you're agreeing on an untruth that you're pretending is truth or mistaking for truth...well...there's way too much of that going on in human interactions for my liking.
Among other things, propaganda is designed to achieve agreement, marketing is designed to achieve agreement, flimflam is designed to achieve agreement...none of these three things are much interested in truth/reality except as a tool, sometimes, to get agreement. I don't particularly care for any of those three things...in fact...I get sort of offended when I'm subjected to them.
When someone presents an assertion that is misleading and/or inaccurate (I include me in 'someone') and information is presented that invalidates that assertion...it's time to acknowledge error or inaccuracy and adjust whatever premises are based on that assertion. If such acknowledging and/or adjusting doesn't happen...in this case the additional information was ignored...it's my presumption that whomever I'm in an exchange with isn't interested in truth/reality, they're interested in their stance and they want agreement, reality/truth is secondary or immaterial to their goal. It's at that point that I pretty much lose interest in dialoguing with them.
Victims of domestic violence need places of safety...yes...but trying to garner support for this by using decontextualized numbers is a lousy way to go about it.
And...presenting another group of victims of violence as somehow getting "more" (and in the process spreading misinformation), that's just reproducing oppression, theoretically in the name of providing relief to victims of oppression. We can do better than that. Such stuff just plays into maintaining the astonishing culture of oppression that we all are subjected to...some extra thinking and contexting can sometimes help to opt out of participation in playing one group of victims off against another group of victims and in avoiding being duped by numbers.
So...if you run across the 3 to 1 meme...beware. All victims belonging to marginalized groups deserve protection...but touting misinformation and/or reproducing oppression is a lousy way to try to achieve that. And...anyone believing that more human effort and resources are devoted to "saving" our sister/brother Earthlings than are devoted to humans...well...they're way way way wrong.