Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Guest Post: Minding Animals in Utrecht

Guest Post by Sally Healy: Minding Animals in Utrecht

I was fortunate enough to attend the 2nd Minding Animals Conference in Utrecht at the start of July. The enormity of the event had been indicated to delegates in the months leading up to the conference Competition to present was fierce – a clear indication that the field of human animal studies is gaining momentum throughout many countries.

The program offered an extremely diverse selection of presentations and posters. The multidisciplinary nature of the conference was reflected in the nine keynote presentations which ranged from political philosophy to animal behaviour and cognition. It was the public lecture by Marc Bekoff to close the conference that I assume would have resonated with the largest audience. His message was clear – we all care about animals, and we can all agree (even those who are not affiliated with the cause) that animals can most certainly suffer and feel emotions. It is therefore clear that by minding animals we are doing both them and ourselves a favour.

With up to 12 sessions on at any given time, and a schedule running from 9am until 10pm for all three days, it was often difficult to decide which session to attend. Jill Robinson opened the Protecting The Animals Seminar Series with an update on the progress being made by Animals Asia in their efforts to free bears from the horrors of bile farming in China. I thought Jill's  presentation was the perfect start to the streams that featured speakers from the 'applied' side of things. Caley Otter from Animals Australia and Mark Pearson from Animal Liberation Australia also gave valuable insight into the work that animal protection groups do that results in a change in community attitudes and behaviours.

With over 700 delegates present, I met people from a wide array of disciplines, most of which were uncharted territory for me. However, it wasn't until I presented on the final morning that I could share ideas with others from my field. In my session I gave a brief overview of results obtained from the online survey I conducted recently as part of my PhD project. Following this, I met a number of PhD students and academics whose research intersected with my own. Those involved in this field are not only looking at societal attitudes to animal welfare, but how we can bridge the concerns between different stakeholder groups to deliver optimal outcomes for farm animals. It was exciting to see the resources being devoted to this area and I'm sure many of the delegates appreciate that the majority of research is not just looking to one stakeholder group for the answer, instead recognising the need for moral responsibility at all levels of production, consumption, and regulation.

Overall, I felt that the Minding Animals Conference struck the right balance between theory and practice and had something to offer everyone. I eagerly await the next instalment which I am sure will be even bigger and better! 

You can contact Sally directly about her research at: sally.healy@griffithuni.edu.au

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