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Changing interventions in farm animal health and welfare: A governmentality approach to the case of lameness

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Beth ClarkORCiD, Dr Amy Proctor



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2022 The Authors. Lameness is a significant health and welfare issue in farmed animals. This paper uses a governmentality approach, which focuses on how a problem is made governable, to examine an emerging ‘ecology of devices’ introduced to intervene in, and attempt to reduce, on-farm incidence of lameness. These devices are associated with advisers who work with farmers on-farm; they enact lameness as a governable entity, are tools to assess the existence of lameness against established norms, and prescribe actions to be taken in response to evidence of lameness. In doing this they subjectify farmers and advisers into seeing and responding to lameness in particular ways. Using concepts of governmentality alongside other perspectives on the power relations and the simplifications and complexities involved in interventions in animal health and farm practice, the paper draws on in-depth research with advisers including vets and other paraprofessionals who work with farmers, and their cows and sheep. It explores how this set of devices introduces particular techniques and practices in lameness management, and produces farmer and adviser subjectivities. It then explores some of the problematics of this mode of governing lameness, including analysis of the limitations and unintended consequences of attempts to simplify lameness management. The paper concludes by arguing that its approach is valuable in analysing ongoing intensification of interventions in farming practices and in understanding the limits of such interventions and the unanticipated divergences from expected conduct.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Holloway L, Mahon N, Clark B, Proctor A

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Rural Studies

Year: 2023

Volume: 97

Pages: 95-104

Print publication date: 01/01/2023

Online publication date: 13/12/2022

Acceptance date: 04/12/2022

Date deposited: 04/01/2023

ISSN (print): 0743-0167

ISSN (electronic): 1873-1392

Publisher: Elsevier Ltd


DOI: 10.1016/j.jrurstud.2022.12.004


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