Ep16 Margo DeMello on human-animal studies, speaking for animals, and mourning animals

2020 ibuzz podcast Nov 06, 2020

In this episode, we are joined by Margo DeMello (PhD, Cultural Anthropology, UC Davis), Assistant Professor at Carroll College in the Anthrozoology Program. Margo has also been an adjunct professor in the Canisius College Anthrozoology program, she directed the Human-Animal Studies program at the Animals & Society Institute for 15 years, and she is the immediate past president of House Rabbit Society. She has published over a dozen books, most within the field of human-animal studies and body studies, and dozens of articles and book chapters.

To introduce us to her work and field, Margo explains the field of anthrozoology, the study of human-animal relationships, and what goes into pursuing a degree. She describes it as a lens through which we can look at other species in a way that challenges anthropocentrism and recognises that humans and animals have always been interlinked.

After working with the Animals & Society Institute for 15 years, Margo shares the main focuses of the organisation: exploring the question of violence in human-animal relationships, helping students and faculty to find and build the field, and using the field’s literature to shape policy about animals. Additionally, Margo tells us about another important organisation in her life, the House Rabbit Society, and how their work helped transform rabbits from a somewhat third class pet kept outside with limited medical care and companionship to being widely considered worthy of respect and compassion.

Margo has written many books on animals, and shares insights with us from several of her works. Her textbook, Animals & Society, was written to ensure the field was sustainable and had the resources it needed to succeed and grow. Why Animals Matter, written together with Erin E. Wiliams, is an overview of the issues facing animals and the main areas where humans and animals coexist, covering animals in entertainment, hunting and relationships with wildlife, meat consumption, and pets. Speaking for Animals questions who has the right to advocate for who, and what the implications are for everyone else.

Lastly, Margo tells us a bit about her book Mourning Animals that examines who gets to be mourned, how it is done with respect to cultural practices, and who doesn’t get to be mourned. in the animal care field death is unfortunately encountered regularly as the years go by and there isn’t always space for feelings of grief when we lose animals. Luckily, the field is shifting, and many beautiful rituals are emerging to help not only humans but the animals left behind to mourn their loved ones. Speaking to animal care professionals, Margo recommends reaching out to others when mourning an animal and having people to talk to who care about you and also care about animals so you can honestly express how you’re feeling.

For more info on Anthrozoology:
Society & Animals
Exeter’s PhD

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