Animal Welfare, Agricultural

Though arguably not a traditional area of geographical concern, agricultural animal welfare is currently attracting the interest of a growing number of human geographers. The (humanist) social sciences in general have long ignored farm animals, and, one might even claim, all animals, rendering them largely invisible and their agency unaccounted for in the analysis of human society. Yet, geography’s relatively recent reinterrogation of society–nature relations, drawing upon cultural and post structural theory in particular, has pushed open the gates, at least in part, and has, to use a phrase of Jennifer Wolch and Jody Emel’s, sought to bring the animals back in. Today, animal geographies are proving to be a flourishing arena for the investigation of interspecies relationality, symbolic co constitution, and posthuman, nonhuman, or ‘more than human’ ontologies, to name but a few, drawing on science and technology studies and such innovative conceptual approaches as actor-network theory, hybridity, and dwelling. Agricultural animal welfare, as an issue and a concern that is defined both by science and by society within a set of very distinct and overt, but nevertheless fluid and heterogeneous, socionatural boundaries (from farmyards and attenuated lives to notions of cruelty and ‘humane’ killing), sits at a crucial interface between these theoretical concerns and what has been often distinct geographies of care and ethics. For geographers, the current popular, scientific, and political engagement with farm animal welfare is far more than merely the latest rung on the ladder of contemporary society’s ethical ascendancy. Critically, it challenges not only the representation of animals as sets of scientific ‘facts’ or as corporal commodities with their resultant invisible subjectivity, but also the mechanisms by which the welfare of these bodies and sentiencies are assessed and acted upon, through the multiplicity of sociomaterial practices, by a widening array of different actors from veterinary scientists and farmers to retailers and food consumers.

The Difficulty of Animal Welfare

Redefining Animal Welfare

A Shift of Responsibility