Title of Presentation

Session E: Where’s fluffy? A species inclusive portrait of human-companion animal relationships

Sub-theme

Research and Theory

Keywords

companion animals, sociology, species inclusive research, qualitative

Start Date

12-10-2018 3:00 PM

End Date

12-10-2018 4:15 PM

Abstract

Human-companion animal relationships are contradictory and complex. While companion animals are increasingly being considered part of the family, they are still surrendered and euthanised by the hundreds of thousands in shelters each year. Human-companion animal relationships have largely escaped the critique faced by other human-animal entanglements, instead being shrouded in positive connotations of love, commitment and kinship ties. This positive framing neglects to acknowledge the exploitation of breeding, the coercion of training and the asymmetrical power relations upon which these relationships depend. I argue that more species-inclusive methods are needed to challenge the silencing of companion animals that too often is facilitated when humans speak for them. This presentation draws on qualitative interviews and observations with humans and ‘their’ companion animals to construct a critical, comprehensive portrait of human-companion animal relationships in Australia. Inevitably, a more meaningful consideration of animals makes our relations with them appear much messier and far more problematic. I argue that we (humans) need to advocate for nonhuman animals in our research and in society. This research, then, has applications beyond the merely theoretical, highlighting often neglected areas of human-companion animal relations which can inform the policies and practices that surround them.

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Oct 12th, 3:00 PM Oct 12th, 4:15 PM

Session E: Where’s fluffy? A species inclusive portrait of human-companion animal relationships

Human-companion animal relationships are contradictory and complex. While companion animals are increasingly being considered part of the family, they are still surrendered and euthanised by the hundreds of thousands in shelters each year. Human-companion animal relationships have largely escaped the critique faced by other human-animal entanglements, instead being shrouded in positive connotations of love, commitment and kinship ties. This positive framing neglects to acknowledge the exploitation of breeding, the coercion of training and the asymmetrical power relations upon which these relationships depend. I argue that more species-inclusive methods are needed to challenge the silencing of companion animals that too often is facilitated when humans speak for them. This presentation draws on qualitative interviews and observations with humans and ‘their’ companion animals to construct a critical, comprehensive portrait of human-companion animal relationships in Australia. Inevitably, a more meaningful consideration of animals makes our relations with them appear much messier and far more problematic. I argue that we (humans) need to advocate for nonhuman animals in our research and in society. This research, then, has applications beyond the merely theoretical, highlighting often neglected areas of human-companion animal relations which can inform the policies and practices that surround them.