Animals & Biodiversity
Think Tank Programme
Nénette, a fifty-two-year-old orangutan, sits passively in her enclosure at the Ménagerie of the Jardin des Plantes in Paris, France, observing the many visitors who stare back at her through the exhibit window. Born in 1969 in the rainforests of Borneo, she entered a life of captivity at three years old. One of the last orangutans in European zoos to have come directly from the wild, she has attracted popularity over the years as one of the Ménagerie’s biggest animal stars (Bourgeois, 2020).
A guide dog skillfully leads their visually human partner through a city of intriguing distractions and stressors, while a police horse stands firm against a passionate crowd. For both species, these are common occurrences during their work-lives.
What do a cat in the UK Prime Minister’s Cabinet, honeybees who forage, horses who drive a carriage, beavers who build a dam and dogs who detect explosives have in common? At first glance, not much, if you judge by their species. But take a closer look and you will see that they work, whether for the well-being and subsistence of their own communities or towards the health, wealth and welfare of the multispecies society through the production of goods or the provision of services.
Although several pieces of research have concluded that aquatic animals are sentient beings, many of them are still being confined, cultivated, and executed by aquaculture companies to satisfy human needs. This reality, comparable to that experienced by land animals that are victims of the farming industry, differs from the latter in the absence of clearly defined welfare standards.
On the morning of 1 November 1755, a sequence of earthquakes struck Lisbon, Portugal, claiming the lives of approximately 70,000 people. Befalling the city during the European Enlightenment, the catastrophe stimulated a rich dialogue about its underlying cause between two preeminent philosophers of the day: Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
At the end of a year full of grief, lockdowns and home-working, it is time for us to review some of the activities that our newly launched Think Tank-programme on Animals & Biodiversity of the Global Research Network has been involved in over the last few months. In these dark and isolated times, the Think Tank programme sought to bring some light in the form of a vibrant virtual network between animal studies scholars around the world, connecting us in our effort to fight for a more-than-human world of multispecies justice.
Things are going well for the Giant Panda. Arguably partly due to its undeniable charisma, the efforts directed at saving this wonderful species from extinction have been particularly elaborate and successful, and its status was recently upgraded from ‘endangered’ to ‘vulnerable’ on the official list of the IUCN. In the many giant panda nature reserves in Eastern Asia, pandas now live in what we could describe as a heaven on earth, having even a panda-version of the dating app Tinder at their disposal, created with the aim to match them with their most suitable panda-partner.
3 billion animals were in the bushfires’ path. Here’s what the royal commission said (and should’ve said) about them
The Black Summer bushfires were devastating for wildlife, with an estimated three billion wild animals killed, injured or displaced. This staggering figure does not include the tens of thousands of farm animals who also perished.
Animals bred for production and experimentation live a hell on earth, of which we may well have a very, very sweetened foretaste. Whereas the year 2019 concluded with the bushfires in Australia, the world awakened in 2020 to a general confinement of the human population due to the spread of a virus made possible by the capture of wild animals for the consumption of their flesh.