On Animals, Revenge Killings and Vigilante Justice…

To start on a less than serious note, Jaws has always been one of my all-time favourite films, and it actually expresses quite nicely (buried deep in a fiction filled with many inaccuracies) the occasional tendency of humans to want to take revenge on wild animals that threaten us or our way of life. I’ve always found it particularly interesting that Peter Benchley, author of the Jaws novel, famously regretted the impact the film had on the popular perception of great white sharks, and he spent the next decades trying to protect sharks, promote their conservation and change the now-popular view of them as killers (worse, killers with an agenda…..)  Continue reading

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Coming up for air: On navigating slings, arrows and academic writing…

Such long stretches of time between contemplative and insightful blog posts was not what I originally envisaged…. Even with the two weeks of annual leave I (mercifully) took at the beginning of the course, adjusting to the workload has been a challenge.

Around three weeks ago, I was cycling merrily home from the supermarket on a crisp Autumn Saturday afternoon, when my tyres slipped on some ill-advisedly placed tram lines and apparently the entire force of the impact was focused on my right kneecap. All this despite the very sporadic occurrence of bruises all over my body.  Continue reading

Week One reflections and ‘Interesting Stuff’ round-up #1

Here I stand, on the cusp of weeks 2 and 3 of the introductory ‘Theory and Method’ module of my Anthrozoology programme, and my experience so far has been really positive.

Working full time and beginning a part time/distance learning MA programme has been fairly daunting, but I feel (so far at least!) that my decisions to stick with just one module to begin with (taking advantage of a flexible third term in the late Spring) and also taking time off work, have been tremendously helpful.

Moving house and contending with the start of the academic term at my place of work did not help matters at all, but the learning environment, engagement from the tutor(s) and other resources at Exeter have been excellent. Being able to see and engage with my course-mates (all over the globe) has been really great too, and makes me feel more like part of a cohort.  Continue reading

The Manchester Dogs’ Home fire: compartmentalising our empathy?

On the evening of Thursday 11th September 2014, a fire destroyed the Manchester Dogs Home facility, killing over 50 dogs. At the time of writing one or more teens are suspected of arson. After the story was reported, social media quickly provided a catalyst for an unprecedented outpouring of empathy and genuine grief; within hours, roads around the facility were gridlocked as Manchester locals arrived in person to donate food, blankets, etc. When donations were redirected to the Dogs Home’s Cheshire facility, motorways were gridlocked too. Within 24 hours over £1 million was raised by the Manchester Evening News drive alone and 3 days later, a candlelight vigil was planned to remember the dogs that had died in the fire, and staff were offered bereavement counselling.

My own reaction was curiously phased; I was born and raised in Manchester and have volunteered with other local shelters. The Manchester Dogs Home manager is a staff member at the ‘daycare’ facility my own dog attends weekly. The incident affected me on a personal level, and consequently I spent much of the first hours after the story ‘hit’ feeling very emotional. Soon enough I found the live news feed too upsetting to read, and tried to focus on the ‘positives’ – the support of the community, the donations of food, blankets and supplies, and the ever rising total count of financial contributions – in order to try and lessen the sadness I felt.  Continue reading

Book Review: Plenty In Life Is Free – Kathy Sdao

Plenty In Life Is FreeDTB1246_c – Reflections On Dogs, Training and Finding Grace.
Author: Kathy Sdao
Publisher: Dogwise Publishing
Edition: 2012
ISBN: 9781617810640

I would like to preface this review by saying that I am a thorough amateur when it comes to dog training. I am an advocate of positive reinforcement training and am always learning. Please do let me know if I have made any significant errors while attempting to make generalisations about this complex topic! As much as anything else this is an exercise in book reviewing, which is rather new to me.

Continue reading

On Academic Reading and Good Habits

I’ve never been a particularly ‘good’ reader, and require full concentration for even the guiltiest of fiction-pleasures. I always make the best effort at reading when I’m on holiday, but since this is a distance learning MA and I have to continue working full time (and am not filthy rich), I really need to figure out a Plan B to get the best out of the programme.  Continue reading

First Post

In September I (finally) begin a MA in Anthrozoology via distance learning through the University of Exeter. I’m nervously excited about this next chapter in my life which I believe will be enriching for me both academically and personally.

As I rather clumsily tried to explain in my application for the course, my background is in Sociology (I completed my BA in 2007 at the University of Manchester) and since then I’ve often considered postgraduate study and never felt fully compelled to pursue Sociology further. I became vegan around 2008 after almost a lifetime of on-off vegetarianism. When I realised that Anthrozoology, human-animal studies and related disciplines existed, I felt a sudden sureness about my next step.

I’m currently dipping my toe back into the murky waters of academic reading and making surprisingly good progress considering the number of years my brain has been off the job…. On the reading list at the moment are the following key texts:

I’m already forming some rudimentary reactions to and opinions on the reading, which I suppose is a positive step. I’ll continue to try and cram in as much as possible before the course begins properly and adjust to the change in routine as best I can!

Someone, at least, might be difficult to convince that sitting on the settee reading for extended periods is a good idea….

Vulpe on beach