RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2012

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5 Wanted, Dead or Alive: Critical Geographies of Human-Animal Encounters (1): Dead?
Convenor(s) Daniel Allen (Independent Scholar)
Richard White (Sheffield Hallam University, UK)
Robert Hearn (The University of Nottingham, UK)
Chair(s) Richard White (Sheffield Hallam University, UK)
Timetable Tuesday 03 July 2012, Session 1 (09:00 - 10:40)
Room Appleton Tower - Room 2.04
Session abstract The emergence of a ‘more-than-human geographies’ approach to the natural world has seen the dissolution of nature-culture binaries, challenged understandings of “the animal”, and heightened the appreciation of hybridity and subjectivities. Despite these important developments, it has been suggested that ‘something is lost’ with this analysis; and the danger of denying difference altogether remains (Castree, 2003). As Philo (2005: 829) reflects: ‘might it not be that the animals – in detail, up close, face-to-face, as it were – still remain somewhat shadowy presences? They are animating the stories being told, but in their individuality – as different species, even as individuals – they stay in the margins.’

This ambitious session strives to reconsider the original aims of the new animal geographies project, documenting all manner of encounters between humans and animals, showing the spatiality of human-animal orderings, and revealing how such relationships shaped ideas, practices and identities throughout history (Philo and Wilbert, 2001). The session welcomes papers engaging with human-animal encounters in secure places, landscapes of defence, spaces of security and insecurity. Possible topics could include: animals in warfare, detection species at home and in the workplace, animals as both forms of security for and devourers of property, encounters with dangerous species (captivity, taming, killing), securing indigenous and endangered species populations, animal protection through welfare and rights. The session will showcase the rich variety of human-animal research in social, cultural and historical geography. By bringing together ‘retold stories’ (H. Lorimer, 2005) and ‘responsible anthropologies’ (Johnston, 2008) it is hoped this session will keep non-human animals out of the shadows of marginality, and also help secure ongoing contributions from the field of animal geography.

This session has been organised with support from the Animal Geography Research Network.
Linked Sessions Wanted, Dead or Alive: Critical Geographies of Human-Animal Encounters (2): Alive?
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2012@rgs.org
Pets and the Home Front: Dogs in Britain during the First World War
Philip Howell (University of Cambridge, UK)
The critical and commercial success of Warhorse has embedded a consciousness of the role of animals in war, past and present. Paeans to animals' heroism, sacrifice, and even patriotism are common enough, emphasizing the close bond between animals and humans, whilst acknowledging the exploitation of both. However, the experience of animals on the 'home front' is much less appreciated, as is the fragility of the animal-human bond in times of wartime crisis. In Britain, for instance, the start of World War II saw 400,000 pets euthanized. This paper further questions the nation's supposed attachment to its pets by looking at the experience of dogs in Britain during the Great War, particularly when food shortages and restrictions began to bite. In such conditions even the very practice of keeping dogs was called into question, given their consumption of scarce resources. Not only were the institutions of the dog fancy - breeding and showing pedigree dogs - challenged as never before, so too was the fanciers' loyalty and patriotism. Some in the dog community responded in turn by privileging the rights of 'British' dogs over those of German nationals and conscientious objectors. In this convulsion, the right of not only animals but also humans to life could be seriously questioned. Even today, whilst dogs' war and security service is routinely celebrated, the compatibility of petkeeping with sustainable living remains a matter of contention. This paper concludes with reflections upon the conditional life of companion animals in such spaces and times of insecurity.
A Taste of the Wild
Isla Forsyth (University of Glasgow)
Hayden Lorimer (University of Glasgow)
One way that we humans have come to define our moral boundaries and species sovereignty is through decisions taken about diet: “What kinds of animal it is acceptable to eat?” The perception of edibility and of taste is, of course, a product of cultural training. So, what are the social conditions that make the consumption of wild meat a permissible act? Following a critical review of ideas about the taste of wildness as a powerful cultural trope, this paper considers two kinds of gustatory experiment from Britain’s first age of austerity. The continuance of wartime food rationing, the emergence of new scientific knowledge and efforts to plan for Britain’s future food security presented occasions for unusual dietary adventure. Animal re-introduction and zoological fieldwork resulted in new tests for taste buds: reindeer meat and “inedible” birds’ flesh and eggs. Commonly understood as conservative and unimaginative, the British palette was extended by the combination of need, hunger and inquisitiveness. The paper considers the connections between fieldwork, politics, and scientific and culinary exploration through savoury and unsavoury stories about these experiences, the wider reception given to a taste for wildness in the national press and communities of science, and how – if only temporarily – an aesthetics of taste was renegotiated.
‘Big Science’ in the field: perturbing expertise, evidence and policy in animal disease
Angela Cassidy (Imperial College London, UK)
While debates over the role of wild badgers in spreading bovine tuberculosis (bTB) amongst UK cattle herds have been ongoing since the early 1970s, only in recent years has this become a topic of sustained media, political and public controversy. This paper discusses the role of knowledge and expertise in the ongoing badger/bTB debate, tracing how and why responsibility for reaching a resolution has moved back and forth between politics, science and ‘the public’ over the years. The Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT) was commissioned by government in 1998: this study sought to recreate the conditions of a laboratory based randomised controlled trial across approximately 100km2 of the South West of England. However, like much field science, the RBCT faced significant problems in building legitimate knowledge, due in part to the unexpected and uninvited contributions of farmers, animal welfare activists and badgers themsevles during the trial itself. The RBCT findings have subsequently been subject to an ongoing process of interpretation and reinterpretation by multiple actors, providing no clear ‘evidence base’ for policymaking and prompting a return to veterinary-based expert opinion. Meanwhile, in the public sphere, debates centre upon the figure of the badger itself, drawing upon a long history of both coexistence and killing, as well as increasingly the national politics of human-animal relations in the UK.
Killing Animals for Sport: Geographies of the Hunted Otter
Daniel Allen (Independent Scholar)
At the beginning of the twentieth century the otter was persecuted as a fish-killer, valued as a source of sport, respected as a quarry and represented as a victim. Today the animal is protected in Britain and is widely admired for its beauty, mysterious ways, and capacity to survive. Despite these dramatic changes many aspects of the otters’ past have been widely forgotten. The geographies of the hunted otter have essentially been sanitised for modern eyes.

Killing animals for sport has been widely debated in Britain for over 200 years. Hunting, shooting and fishing remain controversial pastimes, bringing together arguments on nature-society interactions, animal welfare, urban-rural relations, rural economy, morality, conservation, class and cruelty. Despite this, historians and geographers previously ignored these human-animal practices. Institutional opposition to “blood sports”, a growing socio-political and environmental movement since the creation of the Humanitarian League (HL, 1891-1919), has also largely eluded scholarly attention.

By focusing on versions of the otter from the hunting fraternity and anti blood-sports campaigners, this paper reveals the early moral arguments which surrounded a very specific mode of killing. It shows that a particular species not only influenced human and animal identities, but informed engagements and understandings with the rural landscape, and was enrolled to elevate ideas of sporting ability and understandings of cruelty.