Article written by 2008 DPDF Animal Studies Research Director Harriet Ritvo:
Potter Stewart, a former Justice of the US Supreme Court, famously said of hard-core
pornography that it was hard to define but he knew it when he saw it. His process of discrimination
was far from unique: with regard to pornography, many people feel similar
confidence in their own reactions. But this gut consensus has not led to shared definitions
or universally accepted policies. That is to say, when they see any particular “it,”
some people know it and some do not. A parallel juxtaposition of convergent method
and divergent results exists with regard to wild animals. Even people accustomed to
thinking critically about the more general notion of “wilderness” often rely on less consciously
formulated criteria to categorise a particular animal or group of animals as
wild. And, as is the case with pornography, there are some good reasons for this inconsistency.
Both pornography and wild animals inspire strong and diverse emotions. And
both are genuinely difficult to define and delimit.