‘Killing with Care’
Locating Ethical Congruence in Multispecies Political Ecology
Keywords:Human-animal relations, local and indigenous people, multispecies, ethics, political ecology, conservation
Increasing calls to re-conceptualise human relations with nonhuman nature in the Anthropocene have spurred a range of multispecies studies seeking to analytically de-centre the human to focus on the lives and struggles of nonhumans. Scholars have also called for deeper collaborations between conservation biology, political ecology, and critical animal studies. Research spanning these disciplinary approaches has considerable analytical potential but presents seriously discordant ethical positions for interdisciplinary multispecies researchers like us. This paper centres the personal ethical dilemmas of three political ecologists of conservation to explore what a multidisciplinary coming together portends for the ethics of multispecies research in local/indigenous contexts that involve extensive livestock farming, hunting and animal sacrifice. Here, everyday human-animal interactions span intimate connections, care, fear, avoidance, and death. While these traditional practices may involve varying levels of animal control and suffering, for our local interlocutors, they are central to maintaining claims over lands, livelihoods, and identities. Through three auto-ethnographic accounts, we unpack how a situated relational approach that requires the researcher to deeply engage with all their subjects might offer a productive pathway to multispecies ethics. We argue that an ethical centring of the nonhuman does not equal a political centring. We encourage other researchers like us, who may find themselves ethically conflicted as they wish to uphold their commitments to nonhuman life, species conservation, and socio-economic-cultural justice, to explore a relational, context-specific and politically-engaged multispecies ethic grounded in everyday situated practices of attachment, detachment, and exclusion.
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