Nonhuman Animals as Symbols


This study is an equal collaboration between three members of the EASE (Exeter Anthrozoology as Symbiotic Ethics) working group at the University of Exeter: Tom Aiello, Kris Hill, and myself, Tiamat Warda. It developed as a result of discussions we had about and during the #BlackLivesMatter protests during 2020.


Racial uprisings often include animalized commentary and symbolic use of nonhuman animal bodies. This study highlights some of the nonhuman animal bodies observed during the #BlackLivesMatter protests within the United States in 2020. Specifically, the use of pig, horse, and dog bodies during street protests is examined.

The Pigs

Displays of pigs carry with them a racially rife past in the United States. This history harmed protesters during #BlackLivesMatter protests being described as suffering like animals and the use of pigs as an epithet for the police is explored.

The Black Cowboys

For the Black Cowboys who joined the protests on horseback, the physical presence of their horses seemed to amplify their message, symbolised a shift in their freedom, and positioned them eye-to-eye with the mounted police officers.

The Dogs

The use of dog bodies within politics, how they amplified political messages as “sign-carrying vehicles”, and the dangers for them and others in protests are addressed.  


This study was accepted for publication by Society & Animals:

Warda, T., Aiello, T., and Hill, K., (forthcoming). Nonhuman Animals as Symbols in the #BlackLivesMatter Protests of 2020. Society & Animals.