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Social Practices of Animal Husbandry in the Alberta Cattle Industry Open Access


Other title
Social practice theory
Animal husbandry
Human emotion
Animal welfare
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Bassi, Emilie M.
Supervisor and department
Parkins, John (Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology)
Examining committee member and department
Krogman, Naomi (Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology)
Goddard, Ellen (Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology)
Caine, Ken (Sociology)
Department of Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology
Rural Sociology
Date accepted
Graduation date
2017-11:Fall 2017
Master of Science
Degree level
The domestication of animals holds a crucial role in the development of societies worldwide. The production-based handling practices of livestock agriculture are a main area of inquiry for those who seek to improve animal husbandry and the treatment of animals implicated in agriculture. This qualitative study explores production-based social practices among cow-calf producers and dairy producers in Alberta, Canada. More specifically, I explore how producers perceive of themselves as mitigating animal welfare issues that permeate the beef and dairy industries through their animal husbandry decisions. I engage with frameworks from social practice theory to explore what facilitates the social reproduction and the social transformation of branding, disbudding and dehorning, weaning, and the on-farm low-stress handling and moving of cattle. Results suggest that both cow-calf and dairy producers descriptively outline the reproduction and simultaneous transformation of these social practices as occurring through the evolution of tools (materials), through the production of knowledge (competences), and the growth or loss of the social and symbolic meaningfulness associated with social practices (meanings). With respect to the theoretical question pertaining to meanings, this research further explores the role of human emotions in the evolution of social practices from two cow-calf producer narratives. Evidence from the findings suggest that while structural conditions exist, producers also tell stories of agency where emotions play a central role in decision-making processes. As such, I argue that positive and negative affective states, such as happiness, joy, grief, and anger may serve as a catalyst for challenging, re-directing, and changing dominant norms and social practices (i.e., structures). The findings provide a contribution to the animal welfare literature by considering the narratives behind social practices and the complexity of animal welfare issues. Moreover, this research provides additional insight on the complex role of human emotions and motivations behind animal husbandry decisions. Overall, this research emphasizes the need to reflect on new avenues when it comes to addressing farm animal welfare issues in the beef or dairy producing industries, including the field of social practices.
This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for the purpose of private, scholarly or scientific research. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
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