The State As Violence, An Example

We’ve all grown tired of the police killing dogs, dogs that have done nothing wrong, in the United States. It seems a day doesn’t go by without a new story of a man in a blue uniform skulking around in the wrong yard, and ending up killing a dog. In fact, the Puppycide Database Project has dedicated itself to keeping track of these brutal incidents.

Let’s contrast that with Europe, or more specifically Scandinavia. Police shootings are uncommon. The shooting of a dog is even more rare. This does not mean modern law enforcement is not also repressive in these states, but it does not take the extreme form we see in the US. Nonetheless, the Scandinavian states have their own way of exterminating household pets.

Dan, last name withheld, was from Denmark. Dan had a dog. But the dog was prohibited – it was an “illegal breed.” The Danish state took his dog and killed it. They didn’t send out a man in uniform to shoot the dog in the street, but the role of law enforcement involved the execution of the animal nonetheless. Oh, and Dan ended up killing himself.

At first glance it is easy to wonder what else may have been going on with Dan. Most people, although they would be heartbroken, would not kill themselves. And that’s a fair assessment. But it’s important to remember that the loss of his friend was not Dan’s only traumatic experience. Contact with law enforcement can be a traumatic and frightening experience in and of itself, with many people experiencing traumatic symptoms after the fact.

A major difference between the police shootings of dogs we see in the United States, versus the regular law enforcement execution of dogs in Denmark, is that the former lacks legal justification. At least, this is the way it seems superficially. In reality, every time a police officer shoots a dog and is not prosecuted – every time the shooting is said to be legitimate – it has the full legal seal of approval. It is every bit as legal as the confiscation and execution of illegal breeds in Denmark.

Denmark’s dog killing system still seems less crude. And this is due to normalization. Killing dogs is a regular function of the police, as well as the state in general, in Denmark. In the United States it largely is not. When the police shoot a dog it is seen as an aberration, that although it may be legal it still is not something that should happen. In Denmark, the intention of the law itself is to ensure certain types of dog are killed. Killing dogs, then, is something that should happen.

As in many things, as soon as we look past the facade of legality the situation becomes more plain. There is no more reason to kill a dog in Denmark, by rationale of its breed, than there is for a police officer in the United States to kill a dog while fucking around in a stranger’s yard. And the state shares the same role in both killings. This role is the facilitation of a system whereby authority figures are given sanction to kill specific animals.

The role of the state in both cases is violence. The end result, dead dogs, is the same in both places. And the system that perpetuates it – despite lauding Denmark for being less brutal when it comes to law enforcement – is the same. It’s a system that involves politicians, legislators, giving written approval for violent acts against animals. And it requires men in blue uniforms, the police, to go out and commit said violent acts.

This can be compared to a criminal conspiracy in that every person, every link in the chain, shares responsibility. Legislators and politicians are responsible for the initial idea, the order, and the legal justification. Individual men and women, people employed in posts as law enforcement, are responsible for going out and doing the dirty deed. And they all bare the burden, the guilt, for the consequences that follow.


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