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"I throw them out of here": the horse trade as phronetic action

By N. Schuurman

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Practices involving horses have become increasingly popular in the spheres of sport and leisure throughout the Western world, and the trade in selling horses has expanded. The horse is characteristically understood as a commodity to be bought and sold several times during its lifetime. What is new in selling horses, however, is the significance of the emotional dimension of owning a horse. The purpose of my research was to scrutinize the ways in which ethical and emotional questions are taken into account in the trade in leisure horses, aspects that are often left out of consideration in favor of the more obvious instrumental values of selling animals. I asked how horse dealers perceive the future relationship between a horse and a prospective buyer based on the first encounter between the two. In particular, my interest was in horse dealers' tacit knowledge of the horses they sell, the actions taken to match the right buyers and the right horses, and the perceived implications of these for the welfare of the horses. To investigate this, I applied Aristotle's concept of phronesis, as well as Donna Haraway's idea of encounter value. The empirical study is qualitative, and was carried out in Finland where the practice of keeping leisure horses has become increasingly popular during the past few decades. The data consist of 10 thematic interviews conducted with horse dealers in 2012. According to the analysis, it appears that dealers' attempts to protect the horses they sell can be understood as phronetic actions aimed at securing the welfare of the horses. Assessing the encounter value of both the horse and the buyer functions as a tool for achieving this goal. The study thus problematizes the taken-for-granted dualistic view of relating to animals either instrumentally or emotionally.

Publication Title Anthrozoos
Volume 27
Issue 4
Pages 591-602
ISBN/ISSN 0892-7936
Publisher Bloomsbury Publishing
Language English
Author Address University of Eastern Finland, Karelian Institute, P.O. Box 111, 80101 Joensuu,
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animals
  2. Animal welfare
  3. Anthrozoology
  4. Developed countries
  5. Emotions
  6. Ethics
  7. Europe
  8. Finland
  9. Horses
  10. interviews
  11. Mammals
  12. OECD countries
  13. peer-reviewed
  14. recreation
  15. Scandinavia
  16. Social psychology and social anthropology
  17. Sports
  18. ungulates
  19. vertebrates
  1. peer-reviewed