Kapiti Island, Aotearoa NZ

Kapiti Island, Aotearoa NZ

More-Than-Human Lab projects combine creative research methods, science and technology studies, multispecies ethnography, and more-than-human geography to explore different ways of being in, with, and for, the world.

THE GOOD DEATH (2016)

As part of Anne’s broader research into how people care for livestock, this sabbatical project looks at practices of care leading up to, and including, death—and specifically what might constitute a “good death” for farm animals. Her plan is to travel around the country conducting participant observation with commercial homekill service providers, veterinarians, and individual livestock farmers in order to produce a picture or story of how New Zealanders prepare farm animals to go to their deaths, how they kill livestock animals on-farm, and what they believe gives these animals a “good death.” Ultimately, this research aims to explain how New Zealanders care for livestock and understand a “good death,” as well as to inform animal welfare policy and public engagement strategies for international controversies including live export, biosecurity culls, and religious slaughter.

This research project has been generously funded through an Association of Commonwealth Universities Titular Fellowship, and by Victoria University of Wellington.

SENSING LIVESTOCK (2015-2016)

This one-year VUW-funded project uses sensory ethnography to:

  • Investigate how Longbush Pork free range pig farmers use their bodily senses to care for livestock animals;
  • Consider how camera-equipped unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) and other imaging technologies can play a role in animal husbandry;
  • Assess the role that P.o.V. videography can play in more-than-human research.

THE GREAT NZ CAT CONTROVERSY (2014-2015)

[ Original research website ]

This one-year VUW-funded project explored human-animal relations with a focus on public understandings of, and attitudes towards, invasive species management. The first part of the project investigated responses to Gareth Morgan’s “Cats To Go” native wildlife conservation campaign by tracing online publics and matters of concern, and the second part focussed on stakeholder interviews and analysis of the campaign’s implications for future conservation efforts.

Key findings:

  • Public responses to the campaign were rooted in debates over whether cats in NZ are best understood as “pets” or “pests”, with neoliberal discourses of rights and responsibilities, public and private, nature and culture, and rationality and emotion invoked to shape the meaning, and effect, of pet/pest classifications;
  • Despite a general consensus that NZ native species need to be conserved for ecological and cultural reasons, there was little agreement on what constitutes the biggest threat, what kind of evidence is required to support action, and what action(s) should be taken;
  • Although the “Cats To Go” campaign was very successful in generating public discussion, it is unclear if the proposal resulted in any forward movement for NZ conservation efforts, and reiterates the need to better understand the relationship between public debate and direct action.

COUNTING SHEEP: NZ MERINO IN AN INTERNET OF THINGS (2011-2014)

[ Original research website ]

This three-year Royal Society of New Zealand Marsden-funded project researched how the production and consumption of NZ Merino wool and meat might be (re)shaped by emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things. The first part of the project comprised a multi-site ethnography of NZ merino breeding, and case study of industry production and marketing strategies. The second part of the project translated this ethnographic work into a set of four speculative design propositions for public engagement.

Key findings:

  • NZ Merino breeding is a complex, and sometimes contradictory, combination of embodied and situated practices undergoing rapid change in the era of networked data and genetics research;
  • NZ Merino marketing is strongly tied to notions of “nature” and “authenticity” that are increasingly at odds with actual husbandry practices, and question the viability of “ethical consumerism”;
  • Empirically-grounded speculative design can be an effective means not of predicting the future, but for critically engaging with contemporary political and ethical concerns;
  • Creative forms of public engagement do not merely reflect existing publics, but create new publics around matters of concern, and compel researchers to address the matter of disinterested publics.