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Livestock/Deadstock: Working with Farm Animals from Birth to Slaughter

Rhoda M. Wilkie

Publication Year: 2010

The connection between people and companion animals has received considerable attention from scholars. In her original and provocative ethnography Livestock/Deadstock, sociologist Rhoda Wilkie asks, how do the men and women who work on farms, in livestock auction markets, and slaughterhouses, interact with—or disengage from—the animals they encounter in their jobs?


Wilkie provides a nuanced appreciation of how those men and women who breed, rear, show, fatten, market, medically treat, and slaughter livestock, make sense of their interactions with the animals that constitute the focus of their work lives. Using a sociologically informed perspective, Wilkie explores their attitudes and behaviors to explain how agricultural workers think, feel, and relate to food animals.


Livestock/Deadstock looks at both people and animals in the division of labor and shows how commercial and hobby productive contexts provide male and female handlers with varying opportunities to bond with and/or distance themselves from livestock. Exploring the experiences of stockpeople, hobby farmers, auction workers, vets and slaughterers, she offers timely insight into the multifaceted, gendered, and contradictory nature of human roles in food animal production.  

Published by: Temple University Press


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pp. ix-

I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every contact who assisted me during my period of fieldwork and interviews. Without their time and contributions, this book would not have been possible. I also thank the Carnegie trust for awarding ...

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1. Food Animals: More Than a “Walking Larder”?

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pp. 1-16

During the mid-1990s, people in southern and southeastern England took to the streets to protest against the export of live animals through their towns. At the peak of the protests, more than 2,000 people congregated every night in the Essex port of Brightlingsea to impede trucks...

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2. Domestication to Industry: The Commercialization of Human–Livestock Relations

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pp. 17-42

The domestication of animals more than 10,000 years ago threw up a number of intended and unintended biological, cultural, and socioeconomic consequences that continue to resonate...

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3. Women and Livestock: The Gendered Nature of Food-Animal Production

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pp. 43-64

"Old Macdonald’s Farm” is a popular children’s song that portrays a highly nostalgic and romanticized image of traditional livestock farming. It conjures up a small-scale family farm where the farmer dutifully attends to his farm animals. The farmer is assumed...

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4. “Price Discovery”: Marketing and Valuing Livestock

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pp. 65-88

The livestock auction is the public face of the commercial livestock sector and plays a pivotal role in the marketing and pricing of animals bred and sold for human consumption. In this chapter, I trace the ascendance....

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5. “The Good Life”: Hobby Farmers and Rare Breeds of Livestock

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pp. 89-114

This chapter considers the experiences, attitudes, and behavior of people who espouse a less commercialized attitude toward farm animals. In this case, I focus on hobby farmers who typically own, breed, and sometimes show fairly small numbers of rare breeds of livestock. Although...

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6. Sentient Commodities: The Ambiguous Status of Livestock

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pp. 115-128

Farm-animal workers clearly get to know and become emotionally attached to some of their animals, but the majority of petted livestock still go to market or slaughter. Over the course of the next three chapters....

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7. Affinities and Aloofness: The Pragmatic Nature of Producer–Livestock Relations

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pp. 129-146

Even though commercial livestock production is overtly governed by economic interests, non-monetary values can also be discerned. Hobby farming, by contrast, is less profit-oriented, which allows more expressive...

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8. Livestock/Deadstock: Managing the Transition from Life to Death

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pp. 147-172

Animal slaughter is an inevitable part of producing meat: One minute you have livestock, and the next you have deadstock. It is a pivotal transitional stage in which “every animal must be killed by bleeding, and this must...

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9. Taking Stock: Food Animals, Ambiguous Relations, and Productive Contexts

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pp. 173-186

Most people in modern industrialized societies choose to eat animal-derived protein. Thus, for many, but not all, consuming meat is a legitimate cultural norm. However, the task of killing food animals...


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pp. 187-202

Glossary of Doric Terms

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pp. 203-204


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pp. 205-224


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pp. 225-234

E-ISBN-13: 9781592136506

Publication Year: 2010