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Before Consumption

Before Consumption: Ambiguous moralities and equine liminality in European horse (meat) production

Funded by an ERC Marie Skłodowska-Curie Award, ‘Before Consumption’ is a collaborative project between Dr Irina Wenk (University of Zurich) and Professor Samantha Hurn (University of Exeter). The project abstract can be found below, and further details and project updates will be posted here when they are available.

Project abstract

Irresponsible breeding of domestic animals is recognised as a significant welfare issue by the European Commission. While surplus dogs and cats might end up as strays, unwanted horses typically end up at horse markets. Some might be rescued, but the majority will end their lives at the slaughterhouse. ‘Before consumption’ explores the ambiguous moralities binding young horses’ fates to practices of horse breeding, trading and rescuing, exploring what the annual conjuncture of possible life or imminent death (nonlife) signifies for individual horses, for the humans involved and for the horse (meat) production system. The primary goal of the project is to develop and test socio-hippography as a novel methodological and analytical tool for researching human-horse interactions. Socio-hippography integrates equine existence and experience into the complex fabric of human sociality. It moves beyond anthropocentrism, foregrounding the experiences of nonhuman equine informants, encompassing embodied communication and the documentation of both human and equine biographical narratives. Field research will be conducted in Austria, where a national breeding program to preserve the heavy draught Noriker horse is established and where hundreds of foals end up as meat each year. Based on a multi-sited approach expanded to include animals, the research will follow a cohort of Noriker foals from birth to sale (Austria) and possible rescue (Germany) over a period of two years.