Anthrozoology as Symbiotic Ethics

Welcome to our blog! Here members of the Exeter Anthrozoology as Symbiotic Ethics (EASE) working group at the University of Exeter, UK, share updates on their own research and explore other issues of relevance to both teaching and research concerned with addressing the ethical implications of co-existence between members of different species.  

Photograph taken by EASE Research Fellow Dr Kate Marx

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Latest from the Blog

An afternoon with Barbara J. King: Cultivating compassionate living with multispecies kin

From the outset of my studies at the University of Exeter I had keenly anticipated my Anthrozoology Residential 2022 attendance. The weekend had finally arrived, although the theme of ‘living and dying with other animals’, had unfortunately turned out to be personally poignant. My beloved rat, Otto, had recently been diagnosed with an incurable illness, culminating in me juggling conference attendance with the responsibility of providing end-of-life care. However, through reflexive thinking (Salzman, 2002), I now see that despite these negative pressures, one talk, Animal love and grief: The role of understanding animals’ emotions in resisting human exceptionalism by Barbara J. King (2022a), particularly contributed to my individual experience, as well as several fundamental aims of the Exeter Anthrozoology as Symbiotic Ethics (EASE) working group (EASE, no date).
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De Nuevo Estoy de Vuelta

My reconnaissance trip to Argentina is drawing to a close, and there is much on which to reflect…
The curiosity that shaped my research question, “How do horses and humans communicate in the Himalayas and Argentina”, was born while I lived in Argentina and before I had any idea of its future academic evolution. During the pandemic I was stuck in the UK, and my personal interest shaped itself into the idea for this PhD thesis. Many research related documents require certainty in the plans you present. In current times, plans need flexibility to accommodate the unexpected. These two elements lie in tension.
This is the first time I have been back to Argentina since the pandemic and since the development of my PhD thesis on the construction of horse-human communication. During this trip, imagination and theory finally met reality.
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The Human Coffee Room: Performative research and the ethics of civet coffee production

In May 2022, Exeter’s Anthrozoology as Symbiotic Ethics (EASE) working group member, Jes Hooper, travelled to Helsinki to deliver a seminar on human-civet interactions. The seminar was part of an ongoing transdisciplinary and transnational project with Finnish art duo Harrie Liveart, and was held in their solo exhibition in Gallery Forum Box, Finland.
The exhibition comes from the multiyear artistic project ‘Collective Perversion – Proposal for Revaluation’, an investigation of water consumption from the perspective of the water toilet which makes tangible the alienation that fuels capitalist exploitation. The artists have set out to challenge this alienation, drawing attention to cultural attitudes towards bodily processes and to the significance of more-than-human entanglements both within our bodies and wider ecosystems.
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Ponyo, shared pain and the materiality of memorialisation (post 4 in this series)

*** Please note, this post contains images of a deceased cat, as well as detailed descriptions of her death***
Ponyo, whose own responses to the deaths of her brother Totoro, and her other feline companion, Mau, were documented in previous blog posts, died when M was 31 months old. Prior to Mau’s death, Ponyo had maintained some consistent physical boundaries with M. She would happily be close to her, but was not keen on M’s attempted caresses. Following Mau’s death however (when M was 20 months old), Ponyo became much more confident around everyone in the house, and would actively solicit interactions with and affection from her canine and human companions, including M.
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Respecting the privacy of my feline research participants

The above ‘announcement’ (Figure 1) showed up in one of the many Facebook groups for domestic cat (Felis catus) guardians and enthusiasts that I am a member of. The post makes fun of the EU’s relatively new General Data Protection Regulation (GPDR) legislation, but in doing so it trivialises the notion of privacy being extended to more-than-human animals (hereafter abbreviated to animals). The message implies that the notion of extending privacy rights to cats is ridiculous. But is it? The concept of privacy in relation to animals is something I continue to grapple with, both as a researcher and personally as a cat guardian.
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Making connections with Mau (post 3 in this series)

Mau turned up on my doorstep as a stray in 2003. At the time I was living in rural Wales with one other cat, Mimi (also a former stray) and Max, a large German Shepherd dog who was the centre of my universe (see Hurn and Badman-King 2019). Mau made his presence felt immediately, fighting enthusiastically with Mimi who was a very shy and conflict averse individual. On hearing the caterwauling I ran to intervene but as soon as I’d opened the front door, Mau ran straight inside, up the stairs and into Max’s bed. What was so surprising was that Max was in his bed at the time, gnawing on a large knuckle bone he had been given by a neighbour. Mau rubbed his nose on Max’s surprised snout a few times as if they were old friends before settling down between Max’s huge front paws and licking the bone. After a few moments like this, Max carefully extricated himself and the bone and walked into the hallway before laying down to resume his treat. Mau got up, ran to where Max had repositioned himself, and climbed back into place, curling into Max’s chest.
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