Veterinary Anthropology Workshop

The first formal academic meeting on Veterinary Anthropology was held over a two-day workshop hosted by the Edinburgh Centre for Medical Anthropology in April 2016. This is an exciting development and I hope future academic meetings will soon follow, leading to more scholarship and publications on veterinary anthropology. The report on the meeting, as published in the Veterinary Record, is found at the end of this page.

The workshop is described here as “seeking to open up an agenda for an innovative new field of study: veterinary anthropology. This new field has the potential to bring together scholarship in animal studies, animal welfare, veterinary sciences, multispecies anthropology, medical anthropology and the anthropology of ethics. The anthropology of human medicine has brought critical attention to the ways in which culture influences the experience of illness and the practice of medicine, as well as the medical objectification of the body, its commodification (biocapital) and governance (biopower). Veterinary anthropology promises all this and more. The complexity brought by the diversity of species under veterinary care and the multiple human-animal relationships which must be taken into consideration raise new analytical challenges. In this workshop we wish to explore the particularities that veterinarians’ care for different species of animals bring to the contemporary practice of medicine.

We ask: how can we bring into relief the differences and continuities that come from medical interventions where the animal is the focus of care? How far does the One Health paradigm go, when veterinary medicine involves interventions which are almost unthinkable in the treatment of human beings. Euthanasia, neutering and ‘slaughter-outs’ in the name of infectious disease control are just three examples. What are the historical and contemporary ethical dimensions of these procedures? How are veterinary practitioners divided on acceptable practice, and how are these differentiated in settings such as farms, domestic pets, and zoos, or across different species? What might ‘informed consent’ mean when dealing with animals? What kind of attitudes towards their patients and animal-owners must vets cultivate during their training, and how might this be different or similar to practitioners in the field of human medicine?”

Speakers included: Stephen Blakeway (The Donkey Sanctuary); Sue Bradley (Newcastle University); Irus Braverman (State University of New York); Ann Bruce (University of Edinburgh); Henry Buller (University of Exeter); Matei Candea (University of Cambridge); Glen Gousquer (University of Edinburgh); Samantha Hurn (University of Exeter); Robin Irvine (St Andrews University); Frédéric Keck (Musée du quai Branly); Pete Kingsley (University of Edinburgh); Jamie Lorimer (University of Oxford); Philip Robinson (Harper Adams University); Melanie Rock (University of Calgary); Chrisse Wanner (University of Edinburgh); Françoise Wemelsfelder (Scotland’s Rural College); Abigal Woods (Kings College London).