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Robotic milking technologies and renegotiating situated ethical relationships on UK dairy farms

Holloway, Lewis, Bear, Christopher and Wilkinson, Katy 2014. Robotic milking technologies and renegotiating situated ethical relationships on UK dairy farms. Agriculture and Human Values 31 (2) , pp. 185-199. 10.1007/s10460-013-9473-3

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Robotic or automatic milking systems (AMS) are novel technologies that take over the labour of dairy farming and reduce the need for human-animal interactions. Replacing ‘conventional’ twice-a-day milking managed by people with a system that supposedly allows cows the freedom to be milked automatically whenever they choose, it is claimed that robotic milking has health and welfare benefits for cows, increases productivity, and has lifestyle advantages for dairy farmers. This paper examines how established ethical relations on dairy farms are unsettled by the intervention of a radically different technology such as AMS, and that the renegotiation of ethical relationships is thus an important dimension of how the actors involved are re-assembled around a new technology. The paper draws on in-depth research on UK dairy farms comparing those using conventional milking technologies with those using AMS. We explore the situated ethical relations which are negotiated in practice, focusing on the contingent and complex nature of human-animal-technology interactions. We show that ethical relations are situated and emergent, and that as the identities, roles and subjectivities of humans and animals are unsettled through the intervention of a new technology, the ethical relations also shift.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Geography and Planning (GEOPL)
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
S Agriculture > S Agriculture (General)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Situated ethics; Dairy farming; Robotic milking; UK; Technology; Animal studies
Publisher: Springer Verlag
ISSN: 0889-048X
Funders: ESRC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 06 Jan 2022 20:01

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