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Implicating animals: the symbolic power of scapegoating animals in marine pollution debates

  • Grant-Smith, Deanna
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2015
Queensland University of Technology ePrints Archive


Animals are often used as symbols in policy debates and media accounts of marine pollution. Images of miserable oil-soaked marine birds and mammals are prominent following high profile oil spills such as the Exxon Valdez, Prestige and Pacific Adventurer incidents. Portrayed as hapless victims, these animal actors are not only cast as powerful symbols of the effects of anthropogenic pollution but also represent an environment in crisis. Animals, like the broader environment, are seen as something which is acted upon. Less attention has been given to the ways in which animals have been cast as either the cause of marine pollution or as having the potential to actively mitigate the potential impacts of anthropogenic marine pollution. This article explores how animals are constructed with respect to vessel-sourced sewage pollution. Through a process of interpretive policy analysis, drawing on media reports and responses to an Australian regulatory review process this study found that, when defending the perceived right to pollute recreational boaters implicated animals such as dogs, fish, turtles, dolphins and seabirds in their pollution discourses. Scapegoating was an important rhetorical feature of claims-making strategies designed to avoid responsibility for changing sewage disposal practices.

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