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Animal Studies Journal

Abstract

The broad subject of First Nations and decolonial perspectives on animal flourishing is addressed in this paper in a reading of references to canids in Mystery Road (2013), a film by the First Nations-Australian director, Ivan Sen, and Here Come the Dogs (2014), a novel by the Malaysian-Australian author Omar Musa. Dingoes and other wild dogs are a prominent trope in Sen’s film and tie to seemingly perdurable debates about the rights of these animals to flourish in Australia. Dingo advocates argue that dingoes are endemic to Australia, are Australia’s oldest introduced animals, and are a top predator species and so critical to the sustainability of many ecosystems across the length and breadth of Australia. In light of this argument, Australia’s biosecurity laws betray dingoes. The Act lists these animals as being pests, and therefore as animals that can be and should be eradicated. Dingo advocates point out also that what is threatening dingoes today more than the humans abiding by and enacting Australia’s biosecurity laws are other wild dogs – descendants of canids who were brought to Australia between 1788 and today and are mixing with dingoes and diluting the so-called dingo gene pool. Sen’s film discernibly engages with both of these arguments, and it does so in a way that resonates with animal studies scholar Fiona Probyn-Rapsey’s critique of the so-called ‘hybridity equals extinction’ argument. Canids also appear in Omar Musa’s novel in the figure of a lone critter, Mercury Fire, an animal discarded by the greyhound racing industry. The novel draws attention to this multi-billion-dollar gambling and animal entertainment industry and to the parallels between the dogs that the industry exploits and others of Australia’s ‘underdog’ populations, who face formidable race, class, and ethnic barriers. These barriers compare with the speciesist barricades that Australia’s wild dogs and many other dogs inclusive of greyhound racing industry dogs face as they strive to flourish.

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