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Affective enactments of the Enviropig. On farm animals, biotechnology, and how to act in an uncertain world.

Rucinska, Karolina 2020. Affective enactments of the Enviropig. On farm animals, biotechnology, and how to act in an uncertain world. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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Global livestock farming is highly intensive, concentrated, and integrated. Due to resources used to undertake this activity (water, energy and land), coupled with gaseous and mineral emissions (carbon, methane and phosphorus), and also deteriorating animal health and welfare; it is one of the most unsustainable sectors. The demand for animal protein, however, continues to grow in both developed and developing countries. With that in mind, the livestock industry is ripe for innovation. Genetic and genome engineering is a biological and technological innovation (hence biotechnology) promising to meet the demand and offset environmental, animal health and welfare issues. Despite a growing uptake of biotechnology in livestock breeding, relatively little is known about farm animal biotechnologies in comparison to GM crops, and transgenic animals used in medical research. Although the scientific community has made some efforts to keep the public informed about the innovations regarding GM livestock, the latter are not consulted and fully engaged in the process of designing of such innovations. This leads to further contestations and growing distrust, thus fracturing the opportunity to foster an affective "science-public" dialogue for envisioning sustainable animal farming. The feelings of fear, disgust and uncertainty thus proliferate. The literature is social sciences so far approached the biotech developments critically. Scholars writing in the field of Critical Animal Studies, Animal Geography and STS have recently suggested that biotechnology is an empty promise that portrays animals as machines removed from their environment. This is one of the reasons why the biotech solution is contested by the public who is said to fear GM animals and feel uncertain how to relate to "new" farm animals. To gain a deeper understanding of the latest innovations in animal farming, I focused on the first genetically modified animal destined for human consumption and environmental protection – the Enviropig. I spoke to some of the key people involved in the creation of this animal, visited the place in which they have been made and analysed media content published about this animal in the last 20 years. I sought to explore the now-vanished life of this animal because, without the past, we might know very little about the future. But given that the topics of animal research and science, in general, are rich in emotive responses, I wanted to understand what role emotions play in the story of the Enviropig. Building on the growing uptake of emotions, feelings and the so-called affective states and caring approaches in the sociological literature, I approached the Enviropig from the perspective of an affective enactment. This meant that instead of approaching the Enviropig as an example of commodification, I explored the abundant animal, science as practice and moving history of the Enviropig. This research shows that genetically modified farm animals are helpful rather than scary "monsters". In other words, when genetically modified (GM) farm animals are attended to with care, they open spaces of sciences and reveal fragility and vulnerability of "things", animals and people. These findings have important consequences for the broader domain of science-public dialogue about the future of animal farming and living in an uncertain world.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Geography and Planning (GEOPL)
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
Uncontrolled Keywords: controversies, affect theory, care, enactments, science and technology, animal geography, farm animal biotechnology, science-public dialogue
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 27 April 2021
Last Modified: 27 Apr 2021 09:18

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