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Exploring Humanimal Interactions and the 'Hands-on' Practices of Care at the Veterinary Clinic

By Astrid Huopalainen, Suvi Satama

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How is care towards nonhuman animals expressed and articulated at the small animal veterinary clinic? The everyday work of veterinary surgeons (vets) remains under-researched by organizational scholars (Clarke and Knights, 2018). This paper takes the complexity of human-animal (‘humanimal') relations as its point of departure, and explores veterinary care work from an embodied point of view. We focus on the ‘hands-on’ practices of veterinarian care embedded and expressed in humanimal interactions at the clinic. By seeking to explore, in detail, how vets enact and express care towards a.) their nonhuman animal patients, and b.) the human animals/animal keepers at the veterinary clinic, we address the complex, fine-grained and more-than-human aspects of care work. We also ask what kind of (emotional) demands and rewards caring for nonhuman animals ‘offers’ to the vets involved in our study. Theoretically, we build upon recent literature on animals and humanimal relations in organizations (e.g. Cunha et al., 2018; Hamilton & McCabe, 2016; Labatut et al., 2016) and work on the gendered aspects of care (e.g. Cohen and Wolkowitz, 2018; Satama and Huopalainen, 2018; Twigg et al., 2011). In the context of veterinary practice, caring is attending to the well-being and needs of the nonhuman animals. Likewise, the vet profession builds upon the performance of emotional labour (Clarke and Knights, 2018), and the ability to control emotions through wide range of actions and expressions in the caring situations. The empirical material of the present paper consists of ethnographic field notes, auto-ethnographic research material and in-depth interviews with vets in Finland and in Denmark that capture articulations and expressions of care at the veterinary clinic. We identify significant yet subtle differences in how the vets themselves negotiate the humanimal relations, the vet-owner relations and professionalism at the clinic, and how power dynamics between the three parties – the vet, the animal and the animal-keeper – fundamentally shape these relations. This paper sheds further light on how care is fundamentally embodied and embedded in the everyday work at the clinic. Finally, this paper contributes to the scholarly debates on ethical veterinarian practice, and what seems to constitute a ‘good’ veterinarian.


Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Date 2019
Pages 234
Publisher The Open University
Location of Publication United Kingdom
Conference Title 11th International Critical Management Studies Conference "Precarious Presents, Open Futures"
URL https://research.cbs.dk/en/publications/exploring-humanimal-interactions-and-the-hands-on-practices-of-ca
Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal roles
  2. Animal welfare
  3. Human-animal interactions
  4. open access
  5. Pet ownership
  6. Pets and companion animals
  7. Veterinary services
  1. open access