Blanc SHS 1 - Blanc - SHS 1 - Sociétés, espaces, organisations et marchés

Animal Companions: theorizing animals relationships to work. – COW

Submission summary

In the Western world essentially, the “animal issue” is one of the important parameters of social relations. The theories about animal liberation imply radical new relationships with them and possibly a break with domestic animals. Also, the “animal issue” potentially entails economic changes.
Criticisms about the animal production industry but also about numerous other sectors related to animals (circus, zoos, bull fighting…) undermine these activities and question their relevance. These criticisms weaken the workers themselves who face new values, sensitivities and representations that they did not anticipate and are not prepared to cope with.

The research done on the role of animals in our societies, irrespective of the scientific field or the country in which it’s carried out, forgets the fundamental root of our relationship with animals : work. The “animal issue” study does not take into account work experience of several millennia with animals. The work dimension associated with animals is totally absent from scientific, social and ethic controversies.

Our goal is to question the place of animals at the workplace. Our strong assumption based upon our primary studies, is to say that animals are not simply objects but are also actors. In other words, our relationship with animals at the workplace is not only explained by our supposed domination, since the Neolithic Age, but is based on interactive intelligence and bargaining with animals. These conditions make possible sustainable work with them. Our goal is to highlight the animal as a worker, understand how animals, depending on their species and/or whatever their species, subjectively interact with work.

The theoretical framework is based on the social sciences, especially sociology, but also anthropology, psychology of work and philosophy. We will also find support from eco-ethology and agronomy. This is why the project is built upon multi-partnerships even though sociology is its backbone.
The methods that we set up are those of the social sciences (interviews, questionnaires, observations, analysis with or without computing help). Also, SMEs will be incorporated into our study in order to bring actual work experience to our research.

The output of our research will be scientific, economic and social. They will feed the understanding of the human/animal relationship by introducing the working issue as a new angle in our scientific papers and books. It will help the sustainability of companies who work with animals, specifically in animal husbandry as well as in organic farming, by producing tools to transform their practices.
Because communication about research is embedded in research itself, we set up partnerships to publish our work and conduct round table discussions about our findings. Agricultural education is one focus; another is the willingness to broadcast to a large audience thanks to a partnership with the radio station, France Inter.

Project coordinator

Madame Jocelyne PORCHER (UMR Innovation) –

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


France Inter Vivre avec les bêtes
CERSES Centre de Recherche Sens Ethique et Société
INRA Ecodeveloppement
Thierry Schweitzer
ULg Université de Liège
Educagri Educagri
INRA UMR Innovation

Help of the ANR 281,460 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: October 2012 - 36 Months

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