Exploring Humanimal Interactions and the ‘Hands-on’ Practices of Care at the Veterinary Clinic

Astrid Huopalainen, Suvi Satama

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference abstract in proceedingsResearchpeer-review


How is care towards nonhuman animals expressed and articulated at the small animal veterinary clinic? The everyday work of veterinary surgeons (vets) remains under-researched by organizational scholars (Clarke and Knights, 2018). This paper takes the complexity of human-animal (‘humanimal') relations as its point of departure, and explores veterinary care work from an embodied point of view. We focus on the ‘hands-on’ practices of veterinarian care embedded and expressed in humanimal interactions at the clinic. By seeking to explore, in detail, how vets enact and express care towards a.) their nonhuman animal patients, and b.) the human animals/animal keepers at the veterinary clinic, we address the complex, fine-grained and more-than-human aspects of care work. We also ask what kind of (emotional) demands and rewards caring for nonhuman animals ‘offers’ to the vets involved in our study. Theoretically, we build upon recent literature on animals and humanimal relations in organizations (e.g. Cunha et al., 2018; Hamilton & McCabe, 2016; Labatut et al., 2016) and work on the gendered aspects of care (e.g. Cohen and Wolkowitz, 2018; Satama and Huopalainen, 2018; Twigg et al., 2011). In the context of veterinary practice, caring is attending to the well-being and needs of the nonhuman animals. Likewise, the vet profession builds upon the performance of emotional labour (Clarke and Knights, 2018), and the ability to control emotions through wide range of actions and expressions in the caring situations. The empirical material of the present paper consists of ethnographic field notes, auto-ethnographic research material and in-depth interviews with vets in Finland and in Denmark that capture articulations and expressions of care at the veterinary clinic. We identify significant yet subtle differences in how the vets themselves negotiate the humanimal relations, the vet-owner relations and professionalism at the clinic, and how power dynamics between the three parties – the vet, the animal and the animal-keeper – fundamentally shape these relations. This paper sheds further light on how care is fundamentally embodied and embedded in the everyday work at the clinic. Finally, this paper contributes to the scholarly debates on ethical veterinarian practice, and what seems to constitute a ‘good’ veterinarian.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication11th International Critical Management Studies Conference “Precarious Presents, Open Futures”
Number of pages1
Place of PublicationMilton Keynes
PublisherThe Open University
Publication date2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019
EventThe 11th International Critical Management Studies Conference. ICMS 2019: Precarious Presents, Open Futures - The Open University Business School, Milton Keynes, United Kingdom
Duration: 27 Jun 201929 Jun 2019
Conference number: 11


ConferenceThe 11th International Critical Management Studies Conference. ICMS 2019
LocationThe Open University Business School
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
CityMilton Keynes
Internet address

Cite this