Saturday, 7 July 2012

Minding Animals Utrecht: Final Day

The third and final day of the international Minding Animals conference began with a bang as my colleague Scott Brenton presented a paper that he and I had co-authored with Clare McCausland. Titled 'Trespass in the name of animal rights', I have blogged about the paper previously. In it we deal with questions about whether animal advocates who enter farms to gather information are playing a legitimate role in the public policy process. 

We were very lucky to have Tony Milligan from the University of Aberdeen in the audience. He provided us some wonderful feedback and we are hopeful that this will be the start of a fruitful information sharing relationship - see conferences aren't just an excuse for travel!!

After lunch I presented a paper on behalf of myself, Barbara Creed and Jenny Gray. Titled 'Low Down Dirty Rat: responses to urban wildlife', I have also blogged about that paper.

My work with Creed is the first time I have collaborated with a cultural studies scholar. It was therefore a wonderful learning opportunity. But I must admit to feeling a little scared standing at the front of the room discussing concepts that are new to me. However, I think the paper went well and I had a number of kind people approach me later to tell me that they enjoyed hearing me speak. I even met a PhD candidate from the University of Wollongong working on introduced species issues. 

Later in the afternoon I went to hear Tony Milligan speak. His paper was titled 'Animal Rescue as Civil Disobedience' and it was great to have the opportunity to question him about his approach.

Following Tony's paper it was time to race back to the hotel and frock-up for the conference dinner. The dinner was held at University Hall in the Centre of town, at the same place the conference commenced. Seated in the ceremonial hall of a university that was first founded in 1600 was a humbling experience. The Vice Chancellor explained the history of the room, and the University, between courses. We were then surprised by the appearance of bagpipes. 

One of the wonderful things about the dinner is that I found myself sitting next to a person I had never spoken to before. He had been in my session, and with only that in common, we talked and talked and talked about what we thought about the various papers and frameworks used by others attending the conference. A wonderful exchange between strangers.

With the dinner concluded the conference was officially over for me. However, as is customary at conferences, we rounded up friends, old and new, and headed out for a couple of drinks and informal talk about all things conference, academic and animal related.

So what were the highlights for me?

First, I have been able to make very positive and promising plans for collaboration. I hope to be able to arrange to have two colleagues from cultural studies visit the University of Melbourne at the end of the year. I am also optimistic that Prof. Robert Garner might pay us a flying visit some time soon.

Second, I have put plans in place to attend a roundtable at the University of Sheffield in late September 2013. If those plans come to fruition it will result in publications dedicated to animals and political sciences. 

Third, it was wonderful to engage with the team from the Centre for Animals and Social Justice (CASJ). I am hopeful that the centre might help facilitate collaboration between political scientists in the field. 

And finally, the keynotes by Robert Garner and Will Kymlicka was a real treat.

So a big thank you to Rod Bennison, Tatjana ViĊĦak and everyone else involved in organising the conference. I can't wait to do it all again in 2015!!


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