At the end of each year, The Independent newspaper launches an appeal to support various charities. This year it has drawn attention to Action Aid and the case of Jennipher Alupot, a Ugandan mother forced to breastfeed the puppies of her husband’s hunting dogs. Her husband had paid a “bride price” of two cows to his father-in-law and reasoned that as the cows were no longer around to provide milk then his new purchase would have to provide for the pups.
This is a story of abuse that seems to be endemic in cultures where wives are traded as commodities but what really made this report “almost too horrific to be believed?” Was it the abuse of wives? Clearly not, as domestic abuse is a universal problem that rarely makes a headline. Was it the concept of bride price? Maybe, but as one commentator pointed out, the practice is also widespread. I think the real horror (and this was evident in the comments) was the idea that a human might be forced to suckle an animal and that is something that most of us find disgusting.
Last year I posted a blog about GMTV presenter Kate Garraway’s campaign to raise public awareness about surrogate breastfeeding by posing for a picture of her apparently breastfeeding a calf. Her point was, why is giving human milk to a calf more shocking than giving cow’s milk to a baby? Of course, it caused outrage and I think this was because of the same inherent essentialism that seems to be violated by these acts. Most of us simply don’t want to cross the animal-human boundary when it comes to acts of intimacy.
We are happy to drink milk but the notion of drinking it directly from the source is something that would turn a few stomachs as this next picture shows. It just seems too intimate.
But not all think like this. I bought a hammock some years back that came with assembly instructions and was surprised to see an image on an Amazonian woman reclining in a similar hammock breastfeeding a goat. I have no idea what the importers of the hammock where trying to promote but when I looked into the practice it turns out that some tribes are not adverse to breastfeeding animals. So clearly culture shapes what we find acceptable here but still it does seem very odd. I do have another image of a New Zealand woman breastfeeding her puppy but I think my point has been made.
This image of the woman with the monkey was taken by Jacek Palkiewicz from the 2007 Huaorani Expedition and can be found here
UPDATE: As this is my most popular post, I thought I would update it with more photographs that seem to titillate.