In a series of ‘senses’ as a topic, the first meeting of 2015 for the British Animal Studies Network took place at the University of Strathcylde with a theme of ‘tasting’.

The collection of presentations and panels was eclectic, covering an immensely varied range of disciplines and focuses. For example, Bel Deering from the RSPCA talked about trying to improve the public image of seagulls, as she claimed that cruelty to them in the UK seems to stem from the view that they are a ‘menace’ and steal food. Michelle Bastian, from the University of Edinburgh, broke academic boundaries with her poetic and prose-like paper, which talked about how jaguars have developed a taste for leatherback turtles – a very endangered species.

The two plenary speakers especially resonated from a critical animal studies perspective. The first came from Guy Cook, professor of language at King’s College London. His paper “I still do love the taste”: the language of beliefs about eating animals’, spoke about the language used to justify and promote the eating of animals, drawing from the three year project he is involved with called ”People’, ‘Products’, ‘Pets’ and ‘Pests.”

The second plenary was from Brett Mizelle, professor of history from California Long beach University. His paper was ‘The cultural work of “bacon mania” and transformations in the making of pigs and pork in America’. This examined the hypervisibility of bacon in modern society, while considering how structures keep identification with the pig obscured.

The other papers presented ranged in variety from covering food activism, pigeon fancying in the 19th and 20th centuries, the meaning of birdsong, and even on the diet of witches’ familiars in early modern England.

The next meeting is to be held in Cardiff on 9th and 10th October 2015, and focuses on the theme of ‘Cold Blood(ed)’:

http://www.britishanimalstudiesnetwork.org.uk/FutureMeetings/ColdBlooded.aspx

Andrea Wren