Monday, September 2, 2013

What is anthrozoology exactly?

Pauleen Bennett.

Earlier this year I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr Pauleen Bennett, Chair of the Australian Anthrozoology Research Foundation

Anthrozoology is derived from the Greek 'anthropos' (meaning human) and zoon (meaning animal). Translated, roughly, that means the study of human-animal interactions. And there's plenty to study in relation to companion animals. Even making sense of pet ownership raises many questions - from an evolutionary perspective, it doesn't make sense that we pour so much attention, care and resources into caring for someone else's baby.

But we do. Pauleen is a brilliant scientist, but she's also a big-picture thinker with a positive outlook. She works on diverse projects but when I asked her for the common thread she answered immediately:

What I am really trying to do is save the planet. We can’t save the planet without fundamentally changing how we think about the environment and animals in it. Most people think through their pets – they don’t think about the polar bears in the Arctic going extinct, they don’t think about the chickens in factory farms. But every single day they are confronted by their cats, dogs and rabbits – and forced to think about how these animals experience the world. So if the only hope of saving the planet is to change the way we think about things, our pets are absolutely instrumental in that. It’s a fairly lofty goal when you think about it.
You can read the full interview in The Veterinarian Magazine (click this link) and you can listen to a podcast of Pauleen talking about pets here.