Beyond Human to Humane: A Multispecies Analysis of Care Work, Its Repression, and Its Potential

Kendra Coulter


This paper approaches care work through a multispecies and interspecies lens, and challenges readers to expand both their analysis and their ethical considerations in order to include animals. First I present a conceptual framework to help illuminate and unpack the care work animals do in the wild, in homes, and in formal workplaces. I then highlight the complex ways animals’ bodies, minds, and families are involved in the production of commodities for human consumption, and the implications of such practices for animals’ own forms of caregiving. Unfortunately, the fact is that for many animals, their primary experiences of care work are its repression. As a result, in the final section, I offer food for thought about the potential for care work to not only involve more empathetic embodied interactions and labour processes, but to be a springboard for expanded visions and projects of social justice which include humane jobs and recognize that “the social” is multispecies.


care work; human-animal relations; critical animal studies; gender and work; humane jobs

Full Text:



Adams, C. J. (2010). The sexual politics of meat: A feminist-vegetarian critical theory. New York: The Continuum International Publishing Group.

Akhtar, A. (2012). Animals and public health: Why treating animals better is critical to human welfare. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Arluke, A., & Sanders, C. R. (1996). Regarding animals. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Beckford, C. L., Jacobs, C., Williams, N., & Nahdee, R. (2010). Aboriginal environmental wisdom, stewardship, and sustainability: Lessons from the Walpole Island First Nations, Ontario, Canada. The Journal of Environmental Education, 41(4), 239-248.

Bezanson, K. (2006). Gender, the state, and social reproduction: Household insecurity in neo-liberal times. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Blanchette, A. (2015). Herding species: Biosecurity, posthuman labor, and the American industrial pig. Cultural Anthropology, 30(4), 640-669.

Briskin, L. (2013). In the public interest: Nurses on strike. In S. Ross & L. Savage (Eds.), Public sector unions in the age of austerity (pp. 91-102). Halifax & Winnipeg: Fernwood.

Bunderson, J. S., & Thompson, J.A. (2009). The call of the wild: Zookeepers, callings, and the double-edged sword of deeply meaningful work. Administrative Science Quarterly, 54(1), 32-57.

Burgon, H. L. (2011). ‘Queen of the world:’ Experiences of ‘at-risk’ young people participating in equine-assisted learning/therapy. Journal of Social Work Practice, 25(2), 165-183.

Caro, D., Davis, S. J., Bastianoni, S., & Caldeira, K. (2014). Global and regional trends in greenhouse gas emissions from livestock. Climatic Change, 126(1-2), 203-216.

Cobble, D. S. (2010). More intimate unions. In E. Boris & R. S. Parreñas (Eds.), Intimate labors: Cultures, technologies, and the politics of care (pp. 280-295). Stanford: Stanford Social Sciences.

Cochrane, A. (2016). Labour rights for animals. In R. Garner & S. O’Sullivan (Eds.), The political turn in animal ethics (pp. 15-31). London: Rowman & Littlefield.

Collard, R-C. (2014). Putting animals back together, taking commodities apart. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 104(1), 151-165.

Coulter, K. (2014). Herds and hierarchies: Class, nature, and the social construction of horses in equestrian culture. Society & Animals, 22(2), 135-152.

Coulter, K. (2016). Animals, work, and the promise of interspecies solidarity. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Coulter, K. (forthcoming). Towards humane jobs: Gendered and multispecies intersections and possibilities. In M. G. Cohen (Ed.), Gender and climate change in rich countries: Work, public policy and action. London: Routledge.

Custance, D., & Mayer, J. (2012). Empathic-like responding by domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) to distress in humans: An exploratory study. Animal Cognition, 15(5), 851-859.

Cutler, S. J., Fooks, A. R., & Van Der Poel, W. H. (2010). Public health threat of new, reemerging, and neglected zoonoses in the industrialized world. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 16(1), 1-5.

Davis, K. (1995). Thinking like a chicken: Farm animals and the feminine connection. In C. J. Adams & J. Donovan (Eds.), Animals and women: Feminist theoretical explorations (pp. 192-212). Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

de la Bellacasa, M. P. (2012). ‘Nothing comes without its world:’ Thinking with care. The Sociological Review, 60(2), 197-216.

de la Torre, M. P., Briefer, E. F., Reader, T., & McElligott, A. G. (2015). Acoustic analysis of cattle (Bos Taurus) mother-offspring contact calls from a source-filter theory perspective. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 163(1), 58-68.

Dickens, P. (1996). Reconstructing nature: Alienation, emancipation and the division of labour. London: Routledge.

Donaldson, S., & Kymlicka, W. (2011). Zoopolis: A political theory of animal rights. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Donaldson, S., & Kymlicka, W. (2012, September). Citizen canine: Agency for domesticated animals. Paper presented at the colloquium Domesticity and Beyond: Living and Working with Animals, Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada.

Donaldson, S., & Kymlicka, W. (2015). Farmed animal sanctuaries: The heart of the movement? Politics and Animals, 1(1), 50-74.

Donovan, J. (2007). Caring to dialogue: Feminism and the treatment of animals. In J. Donovan & C. J. Adams (Eds.), The feminist care tradition in animal ethics (pp. 360-369). New York: Columbia University Press.

Drew, J. (2016). Rendering visible: Animals, empathy, and visuals truths in the Ghosts in Our Machine and beyond. Animal Studies Journal, 5(2), 202-216.

Ellis, C. (2013.) The symbiotic ideology: Stewardship, husbandry, and dominion in beef production. Rural Sociology, 78(4), 429-449.

Ellis, C. (2014). Boundary labor and the production of emotionless commodities: The case of beef production. The Sociological Quarterly, 55(1), 92-118.

Evans, N., & Gray, C. (2011). The practice and ethics of animal-assisted therapy with children and young people: Is it enough that we don’t eat our co-workers? British Journal of Social Work, 42(4), 1-18.

Fine, A. H. (Ed.). (2010). Handbook on animal-assisted therapy: Theoretical foundations and guidelines for practice. Amsterdam: Academic Press.

Fitzgerald, A. J. (2007). ‘They gave me a reason to live:’ The protective effects of companion animals on the suicidality of abused women. Humanity & Society, 31(4), 355-378.

Fitzgerald, A. J. (2010). A social history of the slaughterhouse: From inception to contemporary implications. Human Ecology Review, 17(1), 58-69.

Fitzgerald, A. J., & Taylor, N. (2014). The cultural hegemony of meat and the animal industrial complex. In N. Taylor & R. Twine (Eds.), The rise of critical animal studies: From the margins to the centre (pp.165-182). London: Routledge.

Fraser, N. (1995). From redistribution to recognition? Dilemmas of justice in a ‘post- socialist’ age. New Left Review, 212, 68-93.

Friedrich, B. (2012, September 8). National Pork Producers Council: Anti-science and anti-animal. Common Dreams. Retrieved from

Gaard, G. (2011). Ecofeminism revisited: Rejecting essentialism and re-placing species in a material feminist environmentalism. Feminist Formations, 23(2), 26-53.

Gerber, P. J., Steinfeld, H., Henderson, B., Mottet, A., Opio, C., Dijkman, J., . . . Tempio, G. (2013). Tackling climate change through livestock: A global assessment of emissions and mitigation opportunities. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Glenn, E. N. (2000). Creating a caring society. Contemporary Sociology, 29(1), 84-94.

Glenn, E. N. (2010). Forced to care: Coercion and caregiving in America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Gruen, L. (1993). Dismantling oppression: An analysis of the connection between women and animals. In G. Gaard (Ed.), Ecofeminism: Women, animals, nature (pp. 61-90). Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Gruen, L. (2014). Entangled empathy: An alternative ethic for our relationships with animals. Brooklyn: Lantern Books.

Halley, J. O. (2012). The parallel lives of women and cows: Meat markets. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Hamilton, L. A. (2013). The magic of mundane objects: Culture, identity and power in a country vet’s practice. The Sociological Review, 61(2), 265-284.

Hamilton, L. A. & Taylor, N. (2013). Animals at work: Identity, politics and culture in work with animals. Boston & Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers.

Herd, P., & Meyer, M. H. (2002). Care work: Invisible civic engagement. Gender & Society, 16(5), 665-688.

Irvine, L. (2013a). Animals as lifechangers and lifesavers: Pets in the redemption narratives of homeless people. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 42(1), 3-30.

Irvine, L. (2013b). My dog always eats first: Homeless people and their animals. Boulder: Lynne Rienner.

Irvine, L., & Vermilya, J. R. (2010). Gender work in a feminized profession: The case of veterinary medicine. Gender & Society, 24(1), 56-82.

Kim, C. J. (2015). Dangerous crossings: Race, species, and nature in a multicultural age. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

King, B. J. (2013). How animals grieve. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Labrecque, J., & Walsh, C.A. (2011). Homeless women’s voices on incorporating companion animals into shelter services. Anthrozoos: A Multidisciplinary Journal of the Interactions of People & Animals, 24(1), 79-95.

Landers, T. F., Cohen, B., Wittum, T. E., & Larson, E. L. (2012). A review of antibiotic use in food animals: Perspective, policy, and potential. Public Health Reports, 127(1), 4.

Lem, M., Coe, J. B., Haley, D. B., Stone, E., & O’Grady, W. (2013). Effects of companion animal ownership among Canadian street-involved youth: A qualitative analysis. Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare, 40(4), 285-304.

Lerner, H., & Berg, C. (2015). The concept of health in one health and some practical implications for research and education: What is one health? Infection Ecology & Epidemiology, 5, 1-7.

Lin, B. B., Chappell, M. J., Vandermeer, J., Smith, G., Quintero, E., Bezner-Kerr, R., . . . Perfecto, I. (2011). Effects of industrial agriculture on climate change and the mitigation potential of small-scale agro-ecological farms. CAB Reviews, 20(6), 1-18.

Lister, R. (2009). A Nordic nirvana? Gender, citizenship, and social justice in the Nordic welfare states. Social Politics: International Studies in Gender, State & Society, 16(2), 242-278.

Luxton, M., & Bezanson, K. (Eds.) (2006). Social reproduction: Feminist political economy challenges neo-liberalism. Montréal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Mackenzie, J. S., Jeggo, M., Daszak, P. S., & Richt, J. A. (2013). One health: The human-animal-environment interfaces in emerging infectious diseases. Berlin: Springer.

Marino, L., & Colvin, C. M. (2015). Thinking pigs: A comparative review of cognition, emotion, and personality in Sus domesticus. International Journal of Comparative Psychology, 28. Retrieved from

Matsuoka, A., & Sorenson, J. (2013). Human consequences of animal exploitation: Needs for redefining social welfare. Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare, 40(4), 7-32.

Miller, J. (2008) ‘We can’t join a union, that would harm the horses:’ Worker resistance in the UK horseracing industry. Centre for Employment Studies Research Review, April, 1-4.

Miller, J. (2013). Racing bodies. In C. Wolkowitz, R. L. Cohen, T. Sanders, & K. Hardy (Eds.), Body/sex/work: Intimate, embodied, and sexualized labour (pp.193-206). Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan.

Nibert, D. A. (2014). Animals, immigrants, and profits: Slaughterhouses and the political economy of oppression. In J. Sorenson (Ed.), Critical animal studies: Thinking the unthinkable (pp. 3-17). Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press.

Noske, B. (1989). Humans and other animals: Beyond the boundaries of anthropology. London: Pluto Press.

Noske, B. (1997). Beyond boundaries: Humans and animals. Montréal: Black Rose Books.

Parreñas, R. (2012). Producing affect: Transnational volunteerism in a Malaysian orangutan rehabilitation center. American Ethnologist, 39(4), 673-687.

Plumwood, V. (2002). Environmental culture: The ecological crisis of reason. London: Routledge.

Porcher, J. (2014). The work of animals: A challenge for social sciences.” Humanimalia: A Journal of Human-Animal Interface Studies, 6(1), 1-9.

Robinson, M. (2010, October). Veganism and Mi’kmaq legends: Feminist natives do eat tofu. Paper presented at the American Academy of Religion conference, Atlanta, GA, USA.

Robinson, M. (2014). Animal personhood in Mi’kmaq perspective. Societies, 4(4), 672-688.

Robinson, C. J., & Wallington, T. J. (2012). Boundary work: Engaging knowledge systems in co-management of feral animals on indigenous lands. Ecology and Society, 17(2), 16-28.

Rock, M. J. & Degeling, C. (2015). Public health ethics and more-than-human solidarity. Social Science & Medicine, 129, 61-67.

Ryan, T. (Ed.) (2014). Animals in social work: Why and how they matter. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Sandberg, Ä. (Ed.). (2013). Nordic lights: Work, management and welfare in Scandinavia. Stockholm: SNS Förlag.

Sanders, C. R. (2010). Working out back: The veterinary technician and ‘dirty work.’ Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 39(3), 243-272.

Scholz, S. J. (2008). Political solidarity. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press.

Serpell, J. A., Coppinger, R., & Fine, A. H. (2006). Welfare considerations in therapy and assistance animals. In A. H. Fine (Ed.), Handbook on animal-assisted therapy: Theoretical foundations and guidelines for practice (pp. 481-502). London: Academic Press.

Steinfeld, H., Gerber, P., Wassenaar, T., Castel, V., Rosales, M., & de Haan, C. (2006). Livestock’s long shadow: Environmental issues and options. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Stuart, D., Schewe, R., & Gunderson, R. (2013). Extending social theory to farm animals: Addressing alienation in the dairy sector. Sociologia Ruralis, 53(2), 201-222.

Stull, D. D., & Broadway, M. J. (2013). Slaughterhouse blues: The meat and poultry industry in North America (2nd ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Taylor, N. (2010). Animal shelter emotion management: A case of in situ hegemonic resistance? Sociology, 44(1), 85-101.

Tronto, J. C. (1993). Moral boundaries: A political argument for an ethic of care. London: Psychology Press.

Tronto, J. C. (2013). Caring democracy: Markets, equality, and justice. New York: New York University Press.

Van Dooren, T. (2014). Flight ways: Life and loss at the edge of extinction. New York: Columbia University Press.

Weisberg, Z. (2014). Animal assisted intervention and animal citizenship. Unpublished paper accessed from the author.

Wilkie, R. M. (2010). Livestock/deadstock: Working with farm animals from birth to slaughter. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.

Winter, D. (2016). Processes of caring among animal liberation activists in the United States and Denmark. Unpublished paper accessed from the author.

Woldehanna, S., & Zimicki, S. (2015). An expanded one health model: Integrating social science and one health to inform study of the human-animal interface. Social Science & Medicine, 129, 87-95.

World Health Organization. (2010). The FAO-OIE-WHO collaboration: Sharing responsibilities and coordinating global activities to address health risks at the animal-human-ecosystems interfaces. Retrieved from

Yong, M. H., & Ruffman, T. (2014). Emotional contagion: Dogs and humans show a similar physiological response to human infant crying. Behavioural Processes, 108, 155-165.

Zamir, T. (2006). The moral basis of animal-assisted therapy. Society and Animals, 14(2), 179-199.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2016 Kendra Coulter

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.