A Professional or A Pirate?—an anthrozoological view

In the animal training world, we back to the primitive man essence in creating groups within his tribe.

The fact that there is no worldwide professionalization of this activity, leads us to long discussions, most of them are ideological or moralistic.

In the anthrozoological context, which also encompasses the philosophical component, I reason a lot on this question, without judgments or dogmatic thinking. I use critical reasoning. My greatest reflection, it is why this activity is not professionalized since non-human animals have been living on our whims for thousands of years and why the little recognition that exists is still tied to animal use for social, economic and political interests. The contempt for the activity is alarming because it opens up a huge door to pirates.

It is not my job to affirm what is right or wrong, but rather a duty to write how I view this situation through deductive reasoning, leaving for your analysis the various differences of argumentative discourse vs. rhetorical discourse, between opinions and assertions, and Between facts and fallacies.

I also do not question the care and dedication of all groups with nonhuman animals, my role will never be a judge, after all, agreement and respecting people are two different concepts and individual characteristics of each individual.

I always like to make the distinctions in these terms so that we all follow the same line of reasoning because it is not uncommon to use these terms without the knowledge of their true meaning:

  • Thinking is the activity of the mind that tries to make sense of the events of life, we can think about what we want without any effort, which makes us desire or want something.
  • Reasoning is a process that helps us to accept or reject statements made by ourselves or others.
  • Dogmatic Thinking is characterized by a firm and blind adherence to a certain set of instructions.
  • Critical Thinking recognizes and appreciates contextual differences and their complexity, rejecting previous conclusions and accepting more appropriate conclusions.
  • A premise is a declarative sentence that serves as the basis for a reason, which will lead to a conclusion.
  • An argument is a set of assumptions or justifications that lead to a conclusion. This process can be good or bad, but never true or false. Arguments can be explicit (when assumptions leading to the conclusion are all stated) or implicit (when assumptions leading to the conclusion are under-understood). The latter is widely used at the advertising level. They can also be classified as valid or invalid, strong or weak, convincing or not.
  • A fallacy is an error in the formulation of an argument.
  • An opinion is an expression of a subjective belief or a position on a particular subject, not always based on true premises, and most of the time based on emotional motives or social pressures.
  • Rhetoric is the art of speaking and convincing others without regard to the truth of the premises.

My analogy with the “pirate” follows in his definition of the adjective not to be original and/or in the informal definition of an artful. Both professionals and pirates exist in the groups below as you will confirm.

When we work with living beings, we should always have science as the basis of everything and not dogmatic thinking, rhetoric or fallacies of generalization and exception.

It is of extreme interest to reflect the group battles within the modern tribes on this subject and to try with direct questions to arrive at several possible answers of immediate implementation.

I classified three types of groups with their sub-groups:

  • (1) Groups that recognize their glory through demonstrations of power (trophies, medals, diplomas) mostly with animals previously selected and trained continuously for this purpose, sometimes with the need for rapid learning due to temporal conditioning, diverging Reality of social need. These groups are subdivided into (a) individuals who are only dedicated to the specific activity that is accredited or recognized by the appropriate sports clubs or possible governmental entities, in both cases, and I repeat, only for the specific activity; (b) In individuals who use the demonstrations of power to generalize the activity to other areas of activity as if it was all one truth; (c) In individuals who join the two subgroups above and use them as a form of persuasion, intimidation or simply demotion of the next; And (d) in individuals who use their glory only for playful and / or personal purposes.
  • (2) Groups that recognize their glory through training, readings, social services and similar activities. These groups are subdivided into (a) individuals who need permanent updating in their specific area of activity; (b) In individuals who are largely governed by theory and the practice it is limited to this theory, having as a demonstration animals previously selected and preferably already with a good learning of what will be demonstrated; (c) In individuals who through their experience in a certain activity involving non-human animals begin to work with them without previous scientific knowledge but by theoretical/practical imitation; (d) In individuals who balance theory with practice, with their own self-imposed limits on specific activity, who seek constant improvement even if they start in other areas of activity; And (e) in individuals who, by their constant presence in events, workshops or other theoretical activities, begin their activity. Within this latter sub-group, we subdivided into (e1) individuals who always seek to update with the knowledge of their limits and (e2) in individuals who create dogmatic thoughts, not leaving the theory. Within this group, it is also common to see demonstrations of power or the temporal factors of the learning of the group above (mainly in companies) and some characteristics of the following group.
  • (3)Groups that recognize their glory by personal experience and/or pseudo-knowledge through social readings on the subject (google research and basic imitation of existing professionals). These groups are subdivided into (a) individuals who have an example only dogs of their own and create a universal knowledge; (b) In individuals who initiate the activity without any scientific knowledge and purely with economic thought (they use rhetoric and implicit arguments), creating absolute truths, the need for people, guarantees of results, the cover-up of their work or the properly selected practice, Preferably that can bring protagonism or create social empathy, most related to social projects. This subgroup is adept at having various decorations on clothing (patches, medals, etc…) as a means of persuasion or credibility and has direct interconnections with the groups above.

There are also specific qualifications that are misrepresented or generalized that are only obtained at a university level. It would not be very different from an ophthalmologist doing dental work because his “area of action” is close to one another.

It is a question of balance, not too long with theory alone and not much time with practice alone, that is how extremism and incoherence born in all groups. It is not our fault, it is our cultural and social essence. But we can change that.

Will the Professionals and Pirates presence in all groups create a discussion of the commonalities between the groups that can be the starting point to reflect on the disagreements and making all to row to the same side: The Animal Welfare “Thing”?

Now it’s up to you to analyze and decide: A Professional or a Pirate?

Author’s personal note

I see so much concern about change, but a silence prevails at the moment of speaking. I do not agree with this and apologize to the most sensitive people who will read.

The lack of recognition and professionalization of the activity mixed with the human need for titles and labels for what we do opens a huge niche for pirates. At the moment there are experts and trainers educated in seminars or workshops without any practice, where the “science” they talk about is learned in slides, social media groups and articles, preferably with beautiful words. Titles that can only be academic degree and several years of study is acquired (behaviourist and master included) are used for short courses.

To support the pirates we will also be one. I wonder where are the virtual messiahs of the “animal welfare” that sells so much?

Question all “professionals” and ask for their certificates and diplomas. Be demanding. Keep in mind that diplomas in operational or sports fields do not necessarily give competencies​ for behavioral therapies and another type​ of social teaching methodology. Seminars or other types of events are not people; Only theoretical courses or strictly empirical knowledge do not give the necessary skills to people about reality.

I do not see a promising future for nonhuman animals if people are not more demanding, proactive and out of the “herd,” but in a world where economic, social and political factors are the priority, who really cares about them?


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Autor: Roberto Barata

Ethology Institute Tutor and administration staff member; Instructor and Researcher in Applied Mentoring and Anthrozoology in Animal Behavior and Training field.