Shaping Inter-species Connectedness
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Editorial : Notes From the Field
Professor Nickie Charles

We’re now 18 months into the project and have been observing how police dogs, guide dogs and gundogs are trained. What is really fascinating to watch is how the relationship develops during a training course and how dogs and handlers learn to understand each other. What has struck me is how, at the beginning of a course, if a dog and handler haven’t met before, they’re often at cross purposes with each other, neither understanding what the other wants. By the end of the course an understanding has developed, or in Vicky Hearne’s terms, they have developed a shared language, and, as a result, work together as part of a whole rather than as two separate beings. This does not mean (necessarily) that the relationship is egalitarian, but it does mean that there is a mutual engagement that both partners understand. It’s fascinating to watch this understanding emerging and to see the different types of dog-human connectedness that develop.

In this newsletter our focus is on how we understand human-animal relations, how these relations are changing, and the emergence of new research methods and approaches which help us to explore different forms of inter-species connectedness. Rebekah Fox writes about her research into caring for companion animals, Harriet Smith discusses how our ‘gaze’ shapes what we see, and Mara Miele recounts her experiences of multi-species research. In the spirit of relating across boundaries of different kinds, Pru Hobson-West (Nottingham) writes about connections between two research projects: our research into dog training cultures and the Animal Research Nexus in which Pru is involved and which is funded by the Wellcome Trust.

We hope you enjoy this edition of the newsletter.
Canine Communication
How Do We Care for Companion Animals?
Dr Rebekah Fox

Numbers of companion animals have increased greatly since the Second World War, with approximately 51 million pets living in the UK in 2018 and 45% of households containing at least one pet (PFMA, 2019). However, it is not only numbers of pets that have changed, but also our relationships with them (Fox & Gee, 2016, 2017). Nast (2006) argues that the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries have seen rapid changes in attitudes towards companion animals, with a reconsideration of pets from a ‘species apart’ to ‘profoundly appropriate objects of human affection and love’. This ‘humanisation’ of companion animals means that they now play a much more central role in human identities and lives, however this comes with changing expectations of appropriate care and behaviour. Read More

Doing Inter-species Research

Human/Non-human research has become increasingly popular across academic disciplines.

In the following section the project team explores the processes, and experiences of doing multispecies research.

Inter-species Methodologies: An Interview with Professor Mara Miele

In your most recent research you have used multispecies approaches. Why did you decide to do this?

My previous research on welfare assessments of farm animals focused on public concern for animal welfare and the differences (or similarities) between animal welfare scientists’ and the European public’s understandings of what ‘animal welfare is’ for farm animals. In the Welfare Quality project [1] , we identified many similarities but also a significant number of differences: for members of the public, issues of ‘access to the outdoors’, space, social life, and positive emotions (see Miele and Evans, 2010; Evans and Miele, 2012) were considered to be integral to animal welfare, while animal welfare scientists were more focused on definitions of welfare which were limited to ‘avoiding’ adverse conditions, such as, lack of pain, lack of stress, lack of hunger and thirst. In order to take on board the lay public’s concerns, we incorporated into the Welfare Quality monitoring protocol some measures which gave a sense of farm animals’ ability to express both their ‘natural’ behaviour and positive emotions. To do this we used the method developed by Francoise Wemelsfelder; Qualitative Behaviour Assessment (see Miele et al., 2011). A number of certifying bodies are now using this protocol for measuring and communicating to the public the welfare status of the animals they farm (see, for example, a small dairy cattle company in Spain, named ATO and a certifying body, AENOR ).

Once we started to trial this new monitoring protocol I took the opportunity of shadowing scientists as they were using QBA for monitoring the welfare of chickens for meat production in a case of free range chicken producers in the UK. The experience of participating in these monitoring events gave me the opportunity to write a multispecies ethnography of farm animal life. My paper, ‘The taste of happiness: free range chicken’ (2012), was my first attempt at a multispecies ethnography and subsequently I applied the same approach in my 2016 paper, 'The Making of the Brave Sheep or … the Laboratory as the Unlikely Space of Attunement to Animal Emotions'.

The approach I used was an Actor Network Theory [2] perspective, to look at different versions of visibility of ‘farm animal welfare’ (for example through the use of food labels) and what is produced by the Welfare Quality monitoring scheme, in the case of chickens, and to address the practices in the laboratory that ‘produce’ sheep emotions. Indeed, the insights gained in the Welfare Quality project led me to want to explore how we, as researchers, can give an account of the experiences of the nonhuman animals involved in our lives; this is what we are trying to do in our research into dog training cultures.
Oscar and friend
What are the challenges of carrying out multispecies research ?

Multispecies research is becoming more common and often involves multidisciplinary and /or transdisciplinary approaches (see Veissier and Miele, 2014). However, in my opinion, ‘multispecies ethnography’, which is what we are trying to do in our project, is different. It is more than just an approach that looks at non-human animals from different disciplinary perspectives, it is an approach that involves a normative commitment to bring to the forefront of social science research the lives of neglected subjects such as non-human animals, and to emphasise the subjectivity and agency of organisms whose lives are entangled with humans (see Kirksey and Helmreich, 2010).

In my view, a new sensibility around these issues has emerged at the intersection of three areas of research: environmental studies, science and technology studies, and animal studies. This leads researchers to take a ‘symmetrical’ approach which is attentive to the experiences of human and non-human participants in social practices and to explore the quality of the human/non-human relationship. Departing from established approaches and their focus on what is ‘useful to humans’, plants and charismatic animals, a new generation of researchers are dedicating their attention to previously understudied organisms - such as insects, fungi, and microbes - and bringing them into the sphere of social science research. And indeed a multitude of approaches and experimentations have also begun involving arts and humanities researchers.

The main challenge in this regard arises from the paucity of methods that are able to bridge the ‘Nature-Culture’ divide (see Latimer and Miele, 2013) and address human/non-human animal relationships symmetrically. This is a new terrain that will require lots of imagination and experimentation. Science and Technology Studies scholarship and particularly Actor Network Theory approaches and sensibilities, for me, are good starting points to experiment with multispecies ethnography because of their commitment to a flat ontology and their constant reminder that social practices are inherently more than human.


Evans, A. B., & Miele, M. (2012). Between food and flesh: how animals are made to matter (and not matter) within food consumption practices.  Environment and planning D: society and space 30 (2), 298-314.
Kirksey, S. E., & Helmreich, S. (2010). The emergence of multispecies ethnography.  Cultural anthropology 25 (4), 545-576.
Latimer, J., & Miele, M. (2013). Naturecultures? Science, affect and the non-human.  Theory, Culture & Society 30 (7-8), 5-31.
Miele, M. (2016). The making of the brave sheep or… the laboratory as the unlikely space of attunement to animal emotions.  GeoHumanities 2 (1), 58-75.
Miele, M. (2011). The taste of happiness: Free-range chicken. Environment and Planning A 43 (9), 2076-2090.
Miele, M., Veissier, I., Evans, A., & Botreau, R. (2011). Animal welfare: establishing a dialogue between science and society. Animal Welfare 20 (1), 103.
Miele, M., & Evans, A. (2010). When foods become animals: Ruminations on ethics and responsibility in care-full practices of consumption.  Ethics, Place and Environment 13 (2), 171-190.
Veissier, I., & Miele, M. (2014). Animal welfare: towards transdisciplinarity–the European experience.  Animal Production Science 54 (9), 1119-1129.


Which animal studies scholar has had an impact on your work? Dr Harriet Smith

Steve Baker is an academic and visual artist who was one of the first animal studies scholars to inspire me. Steve has written several books that provide a visual critique of art through the lens of animal studies concerns. For example, in The Postmodern Animal (2000, pp.179-182) he argues that David Hockney’s dog paintings are modernist paintings in so far as they are portraits in which the dog is seen from above with the artist/narrator/consumer in a position of power over the animal. However, Baker points out that if one considers Hockney and his companion dog as being in a relationship and, further, that dogs tend to lie on the floor, the assertion of the painting as a portrait that generically objectivises dogs becomes less concrete. On the one hand, there is the personal and processual relationship between Hockney, the dog, and the process of painting, and, on the other hand, there is also the politics of the same hybrid relation plus the viewer (Rose, 2012): The viewer is active in how their gaze, as well as that of the artist, may or may not objectivise an animal subject in a visual representation (Rose, 2012). These points gesture to how images are contextual; their meaning shifts depending upon what we know of the process involved in their making, as well as the ontological perspective of the viewer. This one example also demonstrates the fluidity of anthropocentric and anthropomorphic interpretations of art. I consider Steve to be a key figure in animal studies scholarship and his work is of importance beyond solely visual discourses, as he discusses many of the key ethical and theoretical concerns of this interdisciplinary area.

On 5th March 2019 I attended a fantastic workshop, organised by the Leverhulme Trust funded  Interspecies Connectedness  project at the University of Warwick. This project focuses on dog training cultures as a way of exploring different forms of human-animal connectedness. The aim of the March workshop was to discuss some emerging findings with stakeholders such as dog trainers and welfare charities, and to jointly consider how best to maximise the overall impact of the research. My self-defined role was to act as critical observer, and to identify examples of ‘connectedness’ between this programme of work, and another large research programme concerned with animals,  the Animal Research Nexus  funded by the Wellcome Trust. The task here is to ask, what can we gain by looking across research programmes, and across the domains in which we connect with non-humans? Read More
What We're Reading
We asked members of our project team to share any reading on animal studies that they have recently enjoyed.
Professor Nickie Charles

This is an amazing book which does what it says in the title and, in many ways, it raises the same sorts of questions as Vincianne Despret does in What would animals say if we asked the right questions ? (2016, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press). Safina says at one point: ‘animals don’t care about academic classifications and testing set ups’ (243) and, because scientists do, they may miss what it is that animals are actually doing and, more to the point, are capable of. Safina watches animals– elephants in Kenya, wolves in Yellowstone, killer whales in the North Pacific, and dogs in his home - in their everyday interactions with each other, with other animals and with humans. He reveals animals who are individuals, who relate to each other, who are closer to some individuals than to others, and who anticipate how others will relate to them; in other words, animals who think and feel and share far more with humans than many give them credit for. This book makes you laugh and cry – what human depradation is doing to animal habitats and how it is affecting the social groupings and relationships which support individual animals is heart-breaking, but descriptions of joyous moments of mud baths and play are uplifting. It is beautifully written, revealing the complex social and emotional lives of animals and making a heartfelt plea that we do something about protecting them before it is too late. 
Professor Mara Miele

This is an interesting article that shows the positive impact of therapy dogs with their handler in the Emergency Department. The research results indicate that the presence/ exposure to the dog for 15 minutes has a significant effect in reducing anxiety and the need for pain treatment. Dog exposure was associated with significantly lower anxiety and a significant overall treatment effect on two-way repeated measures ANOVA for anxiety, pain and depression. After exposure, 1/40 in the dog group needed pain medication, versus 7/40 in controls (P = 0.056, Fisher’s exact test). Interestingly there is no mention about the dog experience, but the report does suggest that there is a risk for the dog.
Dr Rebekah Fox

I am reading ‘The Trainable Cat’ (2017) by John Bradshaw and Sarah Ellis . After spending the last 18 months studying dog training I have become increasingly interested in how training principles can be applied to other animals. This book aims to challenge the conception that cats are somehow ‘untrainable’ and looks at the ways in which training can be used to improve both human and feline lives by helping them to cope with the expectations of modern pet-human relationships. The authors examine theories of cat learning, and the ways in which training can help felines to experience stressful situations such as vet visits in a positive manner, as well as using basic principles of positive reinforcement to prevent ‘undesirable’ behaviours such as hunting, scratching and inappropriate toileting. The book ties in well with my article on changing relationships in this newsletter, using training as a tool to help cats cope with the demands we increasingly place upon them. I look forward to testing some of the techniques on my own cats!
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Shaping Inter-Species Connectedness | Volume 2
July 2019