Animals have been used as totems by Native Americans who are given a strong totem, such as an eagle or mountain lion, to protect them. Sports teams use animals as mascots to imply strength (Detroit Tigers). Countries even use mascots such as Great Britain, who uses the symbol of the bulldog to imply tenacity. And, the Bible says that "Jesus is also known as "The Lion of the tribe of Judah" (Revelation 5:5).
A theological study of the use of animals to describe human behaviours or moral standing finds that animals are used throughout biblical history. The serpent of Genesis is the first representation of something other than human interacting with someone human. Eve was tempted by the evil serpent and then became evil herself when she then tempted Adam. The dreaded "Beast" of Revelation (the last book of the New Testament) ends the Bible. There are approximately one hundred twenty different animals mentioned in the Bible (Hammond).
Animals are treated different culturally as well. In India the cow is a holy animal because of the Hindu belief that cows are descendents of Lord Krishna. Another Hindu belief is that cows are the mother of all civilizations (Nature Magazine). Cows are cared for carefully and gently moved aside if someone needs to move past them. Other cultures embrace animal images and attributes. In Greece and Rome cats were kept as pets because they symbolized liberty. Egyptians kept cats because they were considered sacred. Aborigines of Australia have the wildcat as their totem. China and Japan share the fear that cats are associated with witchery. Throughout the world animals and their images are a part of people's lives and cultures.
There is also a belief in some countries that human-animal hybrids exist (like the werewolf and vampire) and are evil and can cause harm to humans. This type of belief is passed on from one generation to another and is perpetuated in movies and books.
Although animals are powerful and sometimes dangerous man has created an us vs. them attitude that puts animals in their place because they are just not human. Man is superior to animal regardless of the animal's physical attributes. The idea that humans have ethical "wills" that animals just don't have is widely accepted. Despite all the possible positive attributes that animals have they are not "human" thus they are subordinate to humans.
How animals are represented
Animals are represented both positively and negatively throughout history. "Your room is a pigsty!" or "you're eating like a pig" insinuates that pigs are dirty, messy animals. "He runs like a gazelle" means he runs fast. "Dog-faced" means you're ugly while "cute as a kitten" means you are very cute. "I'm hungry like a wolf" asserts that you are very hungry!
Animals are represented as powerful but subhuman. In our own language animals are addressed as "that" in writing vs. she/he. For example if the trash cans were knocked over the owner might ask "who" did that" if he thought a person did it, or "what did that" if he thought an animal was responsible. Our culture treats people as subjective and animals as objective.(Noske)
Because animals are subordinate t