Newcastle University Business School

Event Item

Bodies at Work: Normalising Problematic Practices in the Veterinary Profession?

Guest speakers Caroline Clarke, Open University, and David Knights, Lancaster University, will be speaking about their research paper 'Bodies at Work' in this seminar.

Date/Time: Wednesday 30 November 2016, 16:00 - 18:00

Venue: Newcastle University Business School, Room 4.23

During this seminar Caroline Clarke and David Knight will examine the lived experiences and embodied work of veterinary surgeons in their daily practices and our focus is on how the veterinary surgeon is simultaneously anthropomorphic and anthropocentric in their work.

A short insight into the research paper...

On the one hand, vets can be subservient in attending to their clients’ anthropomorphic pleasures, subordinating their own bodies to the needs of the animal, depriving themselves of sleep and food, as well as rendering themselves open to being “bitten, kicked, trampled or fallen upon by their patients” (Jeyaretenam & Jones, 2000, p.296), and lacking emotional and social nourishment that tends to result in a range of mental health difficulties ranging from anxiety, doubt, and depression through to suicidal ideation (Bartram, Sinclair & Baldwin, 2009; Bartram, Yadegarfar & Baldwin, 2009; Bartram & Baldwin, 2010).

Conversely, vets are also anthropocentric, automatically privileging their own knowledgeable status over that of the animal in their attempts to decide what is ‘best’, using taken for granted assumption rooted in scientific knowledge and rarely interrogated, regardless of their ethical and philosophical legitimacy.

Clarke and Knights argue that, through the process of adiaphorization (Bauman, 1995), professional and moral ‘neutrality’ allows for numerous practices to be imposed on the animal’s body for purposes of meeting the demands of human consumption whether it be food or pet ownership, for example: euthanasia; perpetual pregnancy (in the case of dairy cows); neutering; chemotherapy; amputation and prosthetics; or any other medical procedure/intervention relating to the alleviation of suffering. This is especially troublesome in matters of euthanasia, where biopolitics (Foucault) evolve into questions of Thanapolitics for “life and death are not properly scientific concepts but rather political concepts, which as such acquire a political meaning precisely only through a decision” (Agamben, 1998, p. 16).

All too often these ethical dilemmas arise for veterinary surgeons because of ambiguities, contradictions and tensions between the client (owner) and the patient (animal), and although veterinary surgeons swear an oath to the animal, as we have noted, this is often overridden by the demands of the paying client. Clarke and Knights draw on a posthumanist ethical perspectives to analyse our data, as these seek to challenge the epistemological and ontological binaries and myths between culture/ nature, mind/ body, human/ animal and humanist/ anti-humanist. Suggesting that these can be seen as a new spirituality,(Braidotti ) that can provide insight into the working lives of veterinary surgeons in contemporary times.

Research group: Strategy, Organisations and Society