Northern Animals

Northern Animals

The Sheffield Animal Studies Research Centre (ShARC) is pleased to announce a one-day event for MA and PhD students in the field of animal studies. The event, entitled Northern Animals, is designed to bring together animal scholars in the north of England and will comprise the following events: a research seminar by Dr Jonathan Saha, a talk on publishing in animal studies by Ben Doyle (senior editor for Palgrave), a workshop on applying for PhD and post-doctoral positions, and a session on drawing animals at a local museum. There will also be a workshop on imagining and planning what this community could be in the future.

The event is free and there will also be a limited number of travel bursaries to help defray travel costs.

Please sign up for the event here and share the invitation with your peers and colleagues.

Warm wishes,
Adam, Alice, Joe and Michael

Tom Regan, 1938 – 2017








On Friday 17th February 2017 we received word that Tom Regan, professor emeritus of philosophy at North Carolina State University, had passed away, aged 78. The author of a great many number of papers, articles and books, Regan was a versatile philosopher with a keen eye for detail. He specialised in the works and philosophy of G. E. Moore, and through the late 20th century offered substantial contributions to the then-understudied area of animal moral philosophy.

For many, myself included, his 1983 book The Case for Animal Rights served as a welcome prompt that, when properly addressed, it is entirely plausible that animals possess rights – a concept widely believed to be reserved solely for the rational human. It offered a pivotal change in direction to the work of his most notable counterpart and peer Peter Singer, who believed firmly that whilst animals were morally considerable, the idea that they possessed moral rights was incorrect. It is on this work that I wish to focus.

For Singer and other utilitarians, rights have no place in the sphere of morality. Instead, morality should focus on maximising the amount of good in the world, even if that maximum good is at the expense of the few. Regan disagreed with this, believing that utilitarianism is not acceptable because it treats individuals as ‘mere receptacles’ of value and fails to recognise the ‘inherent value’ of individuals.

Regan subscribed to a deontological form of morality, a theoretical approach that cares less about the consequences of an action and more about the issues surrounding the action performed. According to Regan being an individual who possesses particular features, including self-consciousness, an emotional life, and an existence independent of being useful to anyone else’s interests – individuals whom he called ‘subjects-of-a-life’ – is the benchmark for having inherent rights. Specifically, subjects-of-a-life possess the right to respect, a right that ultimately includes the right to not be killed or harmed.

Beyond his philosophical work, Regan promoted the kind treatment of animals in all aspects of his life. Although he trained as a butcher to pay for college, he became vegetarian in the early 1970s and vegan shortly afterwards. Alongside his wife Nancy, he co-founded the Culture and Animals Foundation, a non-profit organisation that aimed to foster ‘intellectual and artistic endeavours’ that raised awareness of the positive treatment of animals.

His impact on ethical philosophy and animal rights is immeasurable, but all can appreciate the way his papers, books and lectures act as a catalyst to provoke the minds of countless students, academics and activists alike. So whilst it is with a heavy heart we say goodbye to Tom Regan the man, we can take solace in the fact that we are able to continue to study, critique, analyse and celebrate the work of Tom Regan the philosopher. He will surely be remembered as one of the greatest moral philosophers of the last century.

This post was written by Sheffield Animals member Adam Farrow.

We welcome contributors to our project blog. Please email for more information.

Work in Progress: Robert McKay, ‘Animal Studies and The Concept of Representation’

The Sheffield Animal Studies Research Centre is please to invite you to a talk by the University of Sheffield’s own Dr Robert McKay.

The talk is a work in progress towards an essay on the meanings and uses of the concept representation, to appear in a book called Critical Terms in Animal Studies. After setting out a range of reasons why the notion of representation is tricky and important for the field, Dr McKay looks to argue that implicit tensions amongst various vexed senses of representation  — as making present again by standing for, as advocacy and as portrayal — is particularly significant.

The talk is due to take place at 4pm, Tuesday 14th February in the Hicks Building, room HI-LTD. We look forward to welcoming you.

WIP Bob McKay 14th Feb

Research Seminar: Dinesh Wadiwel, ‘Pro-Animal Politics – Do we Need a Concept of Ideology?’, 2nd February

The Sheffield Animal Studies Research Centre warmly invites you to attend our first research seminar of 2017.

We are delighted to welcome the University of Sydney’s Dinesh Wadiwel to Sheffield to deliver a talk on ‘Pro-Animal Politics – Do We Need a Concept of Ideology?’ The seminar is due to take place from 10am on Thursday, 2nd February 2017 in Art Tower, Room AT-LT05.

An abstract of the talk can be found here.
Dinesh Wadiwel Image

Conserving Conference Q&A : Helen Tiffin and Rosaleen Duffy

During our ‘Conserving’ Conference at the University of Sheffield earlier this month, we were extremely lucky to have the chance to talk with two of the keynote speakers about what the theme of this year’s conference meant to them:

Helen Tiffin

1) How does your research engage with the theme of ‘conserving’?

My current research is on the (unfortunately, and in some ways insoluble) vexed relationship(s) between animal welfare proponents and environmentalists. Though their interests should be united, in persuading a generally uncaring majority to consider the interests of the “more than human world” (Philosopher Val Plumwood’s term), they are often at odds, philosophically, ethically and in practice. At this time, my focus is on “alien” eradications, by shooting, poison drop, etc in order to restore “pristine” environments. But as Fred Pearce points out, biodiversity is perhaps going to increasingly rely on aliens to form a “new wild”. Meantime, many animals/ environments are being subjected to “cruel conservation” in what may be a misguided attempt to turn back the clock.

2) How does your particular academic discipline tend to approach questions of conservation, and how does your own work differ?

My original discipline was literary studies, and I worked on the ways in which animals, environments, and conservation measures were represented, historically, and in the present, in all kinds of writing, including scientific accounts. But I also have a Science degree, so some of my work differs radically from that generally done in English or Literary Studies departments, though some is congruent with the area of Cultural Studies, often grafted on to Literature and Communications disciplines.( e.g. my last published article, “Do Insects Feel Pain?“, was a summary of significant scientific research on the Insecta from 1980 to the present. The second last was on the ways in which the Congo region of Africa has been represented, in fiction and reportage, in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Last (co- authored) monograph was ” Wild Man from Borneo: a cultural history of the Orangutan“.

3) What, in your view, are biggest problems with some of the public discourse surrounding conservation?

(a) From an Australian point of view, not nearly enough public discourse, with the exception of climate change. Even the latter is driven usually by economic considerations. And in the current case of the Great Barrier Reef endangerment by the massive Adani coal mine, and the incredibly dangerous Abbot Point loading facility, Government secrecy and draconian measures recently undertaken to actually prevent public discourse.

( b) “Habitat loss” is a useful euphemism for relentless human population expansion and economic greed. But the passive form, and the apparently agent -less happening of “habitat loss”, helps keep discussion of human overpopulation out of the arena. But we have reached the point where, if we wish to have any biodiversity on the planet, we must begin to discuss it. Once humans are here, we have an absolute duty to look after them as best we can; but the right to bring as many into the world as we choose, is a rather different matter. This taken for granted right does need serious discussion, in spite of its unpalatable historical associations, if we are to have any “conservation” of species apart from the human.

( c) Whether assumed through rights, religions, or economics, the normative assumption of anthropocentrism needs unsettling.

Rosaleen Duffy
1) How does your research engage with the theme of ‘conserving’?

My work examines the global politics of wildlife conservation, and I have mostly focused on the role of the conservation movement in the global South. What I am most interested in is how conservation practice can be made more socially just – for me it is important to examine how conservation intersects with race, gender, colonial history, the dynamics of capitalism, and concerns about global security. This is essential in order to build better practice in the future.

2) How does your particular academic discipline tend to approach questions of conservation, and how does your own work differ?

My ‘home discipline ‘ of Politics and International Relations is not known for a large body of work on conservation. In a sense that has been positive because this prompted me to engage with other disciplines in a search for explanations, theoretical framings and methodological approaches. I count myself as a political ecologist – which squarely addresses the politics of global environmental change, including wildlife conservation and seeks to develop the notion of the production of nature to move beyond narratives of destruction and construction of nature.

3) What, in your view, are biggest problems with some of the public discourse surrounding conservation?

I will confine my comments to wildlife conservation in Africa – the public discourse is dominated by the need to save charismatic megafauna (elephants, rhinos, gorillas, lions), This narrows the focus and allows conservation to sidestep the more awkward questions about how conservation is linked in to a colonial history, how it can perpetuate racial stereotypes (particularly evident in debates about poaching), and how it can be responsible for exclusion and (sometimes) violent dispossession of some of the worlds most marginalised communities.

[The BASN ‘Conserving’ Conference was held at the University of Sheffield on 18th/19th November in conjunction with ShARC]

Reading Group: Dinesh Wadiwel’s The War Against Animals

Join us for our first reading group session looking at the Introduction from Dinesh Wadiwel’s The War Against Animals

In The War Against Animals, Dinesh Wadiwel draws on critical political theory to provide a provocative account of how our mainstay relationships with animals are founded upon systemic hostility and bio-political sovereign violence.
Please find an online version of the Introduction here.
The reading group is due to take place from 3pm on Tuesday, 6th December at 9 Mappin Street, 9MS-G14.

Research Seminar: Jill Atkins, ‘Building an ark of emancipatory extinction prevention mechanisms of accounting and accountability’, 29th November

The Sheffield Animal Studies Research Centre warmly invites you to our next research seminar in the series. We are delighted to welcome the University of Sheffield’s own Jill Atkins to deliver a talk on: ‘Building an ark of emancipatory extinction prevention mechanisms of accounting and accountability’.

Jill has recently co-edited a book on The Business of Bees: An Integrated Approach to Bee Decline and Corporate Responsibility as part of a long-term project investigating the role of accounting and responsible investment in preserving biodiversity and addressing the impacts of climate change on business.

The seminar takes place from 3pm on Tuesday, 29th November 2016 in the Diamond Building, Room DIA-WR1.

Read the abstract here.

29th Nov Jill Atkins Extinction

Research Seminar: Sune Borkfelt, ‘Sensing the Animal in Slaughterhouse Fictions’, 15th November

The Sheffield Animal Studies Research Centre is delighted to invite you to attend our next research seminar in the series. We are very pleased to welcome Sune Borkfelt to the University of Sheffield to deliver a talk on ’Sensing the Animal in Slaughterhouse Fictions’. Please find the abstract attached to this email. The seminar takes place from 3pm on Tuesday, 15th November 2016 in Firth Court, Seminar Room F02a.

An abstract of the talk can be found here.

Sune Nov 15 Presentation

Research Seminar: Susan McHugh, ‘Honeybee Fictions and Indigenous Frictions’, 18th October

The Sheffield Animals Research Colloquium was delighted and incredibly fortunate to welcome Professor Susan McHugh to speak on ‘Honeybee Fictions and Indigenous Frictions’.

The seminar took place at 3pm on Tuesday 18th October 2016 at the University of Sheffield.

Prof. McHugh is the author of Animal Stories: Narrating across Species Lines (2011), a volume in the University of Minnesota Press’s Posthumanities series, as well as Dog (2004), a volume in Reaction Books’ groundbreaking Animal series. She has delivered keynote lectures and invited talks in Canada, Germany, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Sweden, the UK, and the US. Her ongoing research focuses on the intersections of biological and cultural extinction at the University of New England.

Listen to the seminar here – with an introduction from ShARC’s own Dr Robert McKay. Follow the seminar with accompanying presentation slides here.

Kind permission given by Prof. Susan McHugh

bee poster final

BASN: Conserving programme, 18-19th November

British Animal Studies Network

basn conserving pic

18th and 19th November 2016

Humanities Research Institute, University of Sheffield

 For registration visit:
Early Bird rate £40 waged/£20 unwaged until 17/10/16
Full rate £50 waged/£25 unwaged

 Plenary speakers:
Rosaleen Duffy (University of Sheffield); David Farrier (University of Edinburgh); Helen Tiffin (University of Wollongong)

Draft Programme 

Friday 18th November

12.00-1.00: Registration and coffee

1.00-2.00: Introduction and Keynote 1
Helen Tiffin (University of Wollongong)
Conservation and Animal Welfare

2.00-2.15: Comfort Break

2.15-3.15: Panel 1: Urban Conservation

Samantha Hurn (University of Exeter)
Street Dog Conservation

Beth Savage (Practicing Artist)
Sites Of Encounter: The Zoo As Gallery And Other Curated Spaces Of Conservation

Cara Clancy (Plymouth University)
Life In The Urban Wilds: The Culture And Politics Of ‘Rewilding’ (In) The Anthropocene

3.45-4.15: Coffee Break

4.15-5.15: Panel 2: Conserving as Medium and Memory

Alan Ross (Humboldt University, Berlin)
The Body As A Medium: Conservation Techniques And Visual Culture, 1660-1840

Sally McIntyre (Practicing Artist)
‘How To Explain Radio To A Dead Huia: Listening Memorials To The Sounds And Silences Of Extinct New Zealand Birds’

5.15-5.30: Comfort Break

5.30-7.00: Panel 3 Problematics of Conserving

Angela Cassidy (University of Exeter)
“They can easily protect themselves, you see…” Conflicting Logics of Care in the UK Badger Culling Debate

Anja Höing (University of Osnabrück)
Conserving The Idea Of The Animal: Representations Of Conservation In British Animal Stories

Greg McElwain (The College of Idaho)
Conserving Whom Or What? Midgley And The Problem Of The Species And The Individual

7.00 Buffet Dinner

Saturday 19th November

9.00-9.30 Coffee

9.30-10.30: Keynote 2

David Farrier (University of Edinburgh)
Animal Detectives and Anthropocene Noir in Chloe Hooper’s A Child’s Book of True Crime

10.30-10.45 Comfort break

10.45-11.45: Panel 4: Inner Mongolia and Outer Hebrides

Thomas White (University of Cambridge)
Camels, Pastoralists And The State: The Politics Of Conservation In Northern China

Pippa Marland (University of Worcester)
‘A great altar-cairn of […] corpses': A Reading Of The ‘Guga Hunt’ In Robert Macfarlane’s The Old Ways

11.45-12.00: Comfort break

12.00-13.00: Panel 5: Critical Stories and Histories of Conservation

Violette Pouillard (University of Oxford)
Appropriation As Conservation. Practices Of Wildlife Management In The Belgian Congo, British Kenya And Uganda (1900-C. 1963)

Wendy Woodward (University of the Western Cape)
Marah And Sekhmet: Two Lionesses, Two Conservation Idols

13.00-14.00: Lunch

14.00-15.00: Keynote 3

Rosaleen Duffy (University of Sheffield)
Title TBC

15.00-15.30 Reflective discussion and meeting close