Category Archives: Animal well-being

Diversity in Depth: Equity Between Humans and Non-humans in Nature-Culture

Date: Tuesday 24 November – time: 19.00-21.00

With planet earth at risk, why do you fuzz over gender and diversity issues rather than prioritizing current ecological challenges? Is societal discrimination the most pressing problem when humankind’s survival is at stake?” Questions such as these are not uncommon. However, they suggest a false opposition. Environmental problems and concerns with social equity do not compete with each over pride of place on academic and political agenda’s. On the contrary, they are directly related in that they both feed off a common ground. In this webinar, Pim Martens  and Lies Wesseling will expose this common ground, by revealing how the exploitation of humans and non-humans are both rooted in an instrumentalist conception of nature. They will also sketch the contours of alternative conceptions of the more-than-human world.

All members of the UM community are warmly invited to participate. This webinar is also part of the Maastricht Summerschool on Human and Animal Relations and Interactions taking place on November 21 and 22, 2020. Participation is free but you need to enroll before November 20, 2020, by send an email to: Lies.Wesseling@Maastrichtuniversity.nl.

Speakers:

Pim Martens, Professor of Sustainable Development, Chair Platform Human and non-human Animal Relations, and  Interations (HARI, FASoS), and Senior Fellow in the Ethics of the Anthropocene Program at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.  

 Lies Wesseling, director Centre for Gender and Diversity and Professor of Cultural Memory, Gender and Diversity at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

Religion and Animals (4): Interview Hindu Prince Jayasinhji Jhala

Interview with Jayasinhji Jhala, the 47th Jhallesvar His Highness Maharaja Sriraj of Halvad- Dhrangadhra and the cultural custodian of the Peoples of Jhalavad and protector of all life forms.

Our dominant current socio-economic and political systems have become decoupled from the larger ecology of life. Our relationship with the natural environment and animals has changed dramatically over time. My Fellowship ‘Ethics of the Anthropocene‘ (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) intends to discuss these past patterns and future pathways with (indigenous) religious leaders.

Above the fourth interview in a series of conversations with religious leaders and their vision on how we should relate to nature and the animals within.

More interviews will follow!

See all interviews at the project page.

Maastricht University Weekend Course Human and Animal Relationships and Interactions (HARI)

21-22 November (Weekend Course) (1 ECTS)

Register here.

Though we live with them, eat them, love them, and wear them, we give very little academic attention to the roles of animals in society. The underlying theme of the course will be re-evaluating our understandings of animals and gauging the individual and collective responsibilities that we, as humans, must negotiate with non-human animals.

This course will also explore and consider the different types of relationships between animals and humans in contemporary society from e.g. a historical, social and linguistic perspectives. Topics include companion animals, animal communication and emotions, animal-assisted therapy.

At the end of this course, students should able to:
• exhibit strong critical thinking skills in their study of the interactions between humans and nonhuman animals and of the roles of nonhuman animals in human society.
• synthesize interdisciplinary information as it relates to anthrozoology.
• identify strengths and weaknesses in arguments regarding human and nonhuman animals.
• construct a written, evidence-based argument on a HARI topic.

Furthermore, the students will:
• Understand different perspectives regarding animals
• Understand the state-of the–art of animal emotions and animal communication

This is an interdisciplinary course, so open for all students with a genuine interest in critical animal studies and how we, as humans, interact with them.

Religion and Animals (3): Interview Maya Priest Audelino Sac Coyoy

Interview with Audelino Sac Coyoy, a Maya-K’iche’ priest and political scientist who currently teaches at the Universidad Rafael Landívar Campus de Quetzaltenango in Guatemala.

Our dominant current socio-economic and political systems have become decoupled from the larger ecology of life. Our relationship with the natural environment and animals has changed dramatically over time. My Fellowship ‘Ethics of the Anthropocene‘ (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) intends to discuss these past patterns and future pathways with (indigenous) religious leaders.

Indigenous worldviews

Indigenous cultures have a unique view of the world that’s distinct from the mainstream. Learning about indigenous cultures and their relationships with animals, may be a way we can begin to address the sustainability challenges we see today. Above the third interview in a series of conversations with religious leaders and their vision on how we should relate to nature and the animals within.

More interviews will follow!

See all interviews at the project page.

Religion and Animals (2): Interview Dakota Chief Phil Lane Jr

Interview with Phil Lane Jr. Phil is an enrolled member of the Ihanktonwan Dakota and Chickasaw Nations. Chief Phil Lane Jr. is an internationally recognized indigenous leader in human and community development.

Our dominant current socio-economic and political systems have become decoupled from the larger ecology of life. Our relationship with the natural environment and animals has changed dramatically over time. My Fellowship ‘Ethics of the Anthropocene‘ (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) intends to discuss these past patterns and future pathways with (indigenous) religious leaders.

Indigenous worldviews

Indigenous cultures have a unique view of the world that’s distinct from the mainstream. Learning about indigenous cultures and their relationships with animals, may be a way we can begin to address the sustainability challenges we see today. Above the second interview in a series of conversations with religious leaders and their vision on how we should relate to nature and the animals within.

More interviews will follow!

See all interviews at the project page.

New Book: Sustanimalism

Order here.

“I think we should be more outspoken when we see the detrimental effects of our activities to the natural environment and the animals within. In this book, without claiming to cover the full complexity, I explore the relationships between human and non-human animals. This ranges from our bound with close companions like cats and dogs, to public attitudes towards exotic animals living far way or in zoos. I also argue that animal welfare should be central in the sustainability debate: what I term ‘sustanimalism’ (in Dutch, the combination of ‘dieren’ (animals), and ‘duurzaamheid’ (sustainability) leads to the neologism ‘dierzaamheid’). More respect for animals and nature is key to a sustainable society.” – Pim Martens

The e-book is free available at Global Academy Press. In return, a donation to the AnimalWise Foundation would be very much appreciated! A hard-copy can be ordered through Bol or Amazon.

Kudos to Felida Big Cat Centre

Tigress Dehli welcoming us

While on a short summer break in the Northern-part of the Netherlands (Friesland), we visited the Big Cat Centre FELIDA. Felida is located in a small village Nijeberkoop, and takes care of big cats that were abused, neglected or discarded and were forced to live under poor conditions in private captivity, circuses and zoos. 

As you can read from their website, Four Paws officially became involved with the big cat centre in Nijeberkoop at the end of 2013. Since then a lot has happened: Several animals have been brought to Lionsrock, a big cat sanctuary in South Africa. As a result, more space became available for the animals staying behind.

We were hosted by Simone, and met some of the staff working at Felida. Of course, we were also able to see the animals that are currently been taken care off, like the young lion brothers Masoud and Terez, and their Uncle Ivan-Asen, rescued from a zoo in Bulgaria. The lions Lenci and Bobby, that were rescued from ‘Europe’s worse zoo’ in Albania, and the tigress Dehli. All of them with their own stories of abuse, inbred, and more… 

As was explained, Felida was able to develop into a ‘special care’ centre for big cats with physical or mental traumas. With great admiration we looked at the work done. The big cats we saw were rescued from poor conditions, and are unable to be released into the wild. Felida provides them the care they need and the staff is very commitment to do this in the most optimal way. We left with mixed feelings. Somewhat sad, realizing that this work is needed, and that there are still people mistreating these beautiful animals. But also with a positive vibe, knowing that other people do care. Kudos to the team and work done at FELIDA!

Our sustainability challenges: climate change, health, and animal well-being

The lecture by Prof. Pim Martens, given Monday June 15th

Our dominant current socio-economic and political systems have become decoupled from the larger ecology of life, and our relationship with our natural environment and the animals within has changed dramatically. This has led to various outbreaks of vector-borne and zoonotic diseases – with COVID-19 as the hard lesson learned (or not?). In this lecture, Pim Martens, Professor of Sustainable Development at Maastricht University, will discuss the complexities and connections between our own well-being and that of the animals with whom we live, and global environmental changes like climate change and biodiversity loss.

Compared to climate change, the impact of covid-19 will look like peanuts

We’ve been warning about this for decades

COVID-19, the third outbreak of coronavirus in 20 years, wasn’t exactly unpredictable. Professor Pim Martens, who tries to integrate scientific knowledge and animal advocacy, talks about how zoonoses, infectious diseases that jump from animals to humans, foreground the complex interconnectedness of our wellbeing and our treatment of animals.

“It was strange – I had no idea. And even when the first reports emerged, I was quite sure they would contain it within the province….” Professor of Sustainable Development Pim Martens has been to China at the end of last year at the invitation of Bingtao Su, his former PhD student at Maastricht University. As a visiting professor, he spent two weeks lecturing at Shandong University and the Chinese Academy of Science.

Under his guidance, Su had studied the Chinese perspective on animal welfare, as compared to the Netherlands and Japan. They used questionnaires to collect data about how factors such as age, gender, or religion relate to attitudes towards animals. He is now also supervising PhD and MSc students conducting similar research in Indonesia and Spain.

Chinese attitudes towards animals

“Sustainability is underrepresented in Chinese Academics, but they are keen to bring in expertise, especially integrated perspectives on interdisciplinary sustainability science.” Sustainable human-animal relationship is a somewhat delicate topic in China: apart from the vast amounts of money at stake, there is also still a belief in the medicinal powers of rare animals’ organs as well as a cultural reluctance towards open criticism.

“China is a huge and very diverse country, so it’s difficult to generalise – that’s also what we’ve found in the study. It is true that they eat a much bigger variety of animals than we do – although you could also say it’s surprising how few animals we in Western Europe eat…” In any case, many suspect that wet markets, on which many different species of animal are kept in close proximity, is where COVID-19 has originated.

Meat, milk and raw materials

More and more animals are kept closely together in unsanitary or overly hygienic (antibiotics, etc.) conditions to satisfy the rising demand for animal protein of densely populated megacities. The need for space and raw materials perpetuates the encroachment on animal habitats like rainforests, which, in turn, brings more humans in contact with more exotic animal species. Add to that frequent international travel – both human and animal – and it’s excellent conditions for zoonosis.

Diseases moving from animals to humans isn’t entirely preventable of course. “It’s a question of probabilities – if we were all vegan animal rights activists, there could still be a zoonotic pandemic but it would be infinitely less likely.” And this was no perfect storm either. “Academics have been warning for decades that this will happen – it was always a question of when, not if.” We’ve had several zoonotic epidemics – several of them corona in fact – in recent decades.

Zoonosis closer to home

According to Martens, a Western European source of zoonotic disease isn’t unthinkable either. The Netherlands, for example, is a densely populated country with a lot of intensively farmed livestock: more than a 1.5 million animals are slaughtered per day, after having spent their lives at very close quarters indeed. The population is very mobile within the country and Schiphol is one of the busiest airports in Europe.

Martens cites the 2007 outbreak of Q Fever, a rather uncommon but devastating disease that can spread from livestock to humans. Dutch authorities were struggling to contain or monitor the spread and the original tally of 25 victims is now estimated to be closer to a hundred. The spread of the disease was eventually contained through a mass cull (of goats and sheep, that is) and by introducing a vaccine for animals.

Greater respect for nature

“The solution is greater respect for nature: moving away from industrial livestock farming, deforestation, wet markets, etc. This would also help address climate change, the impact of which will make this look like peanuts.” Martens’ own contribution to science – together with many international scientists – is studying the complexity and interactions between humans, animals and nature by, among other things, developing mathematical models to simulate the spread of zoonoses. But he also hopes to do his part in bringing about a change of attitude.

He was certainly heartened by how many students attended his lectures in China and how interested and knowledgeable they were. “You can tell that there is a cultural shift especially among young, educated people in urban areas.” Together with Su, he now wants to repeat the original study to see whether the COVID-19 outbreak has changed attitudes towards animal welfare in China.

Surely, it must have changed? Given the public and political discourse, Martens has his doubts. “Of course, economic recovery is very important, but I really hope we won’t rush back to business as usual without fixing the underlying problem.” He adds with a sigh: “If we haven’t learnt anything from this pandemic, then maybe we will from the next one…”

By: Florian Raith. See original post on UMnieuws.

Beestenboel en Bessensap

Beestenboel

In het Maastricht’s Academisch Ziekenhuis MUMC+ wordt in samenwerking met de kinderboerderij De Heeg, een programma uitgevoerd (project Beestenboel) waarin verschillende dieren onder supervisie in een speciale ruimte door kinderen uit het ziekenhuis kunnen worden bezocht en geknuffeld.

Het is een plezierige en ontspannende ontmoeting voor de kinderen en de kinderen en hun ouders genieten daar erg van. Het programma, dat uitgevoerd wordt door professionals en vrijwilligers, biedt uitstekende mogelijkheden om te onderzoeken welke effecten het bezoek van de dieren oplevert voor de kinderen volgens ouders, artsen en andere betrokkenen. Lees hier ook over ‘Meer pootjes aan het bed’.

Bessensap

In bovenstaand filmpje – een pitch voor NWO’s Bessensap 2020 – vertel ik meer over de manier waarop jonge patiënten op diervriendelijke manieren in aanraking komen met fysieke én virtuele (huis-)dieren. Zo kunnen we onderzoeken of dit een positieve invloed heeft op het welzijn en herstel van zieke kinderen. De verdere realisatie van deze ‘beestachtige’ beleefruimte is ook onderdeel van een Crowdfunding campagne van het Universiteitsfonds Limburg/SWOL. Alhoewel – door de corona crisis – dit project even gepauzeerd is, beginnen we weer zo snel als het kan. De realisatie van deze ‘beestachtige’ beleefruimte is alleen mogelijk met uw steun. Doet u mee?