Pandora, Regis, and Gromit: Graphic medicine, witnessing, and transforming interspecies relations at farmed animal sanctuaries

Authors: Heather Rosenfeld*, University of Wisconsin - Madison
Topics: Animal Geographies, Cultural and Political Ecology, Medical and Health Geography
Keywords: animals, STS, graphic medicine, comics, multispecies health
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Embassy Room, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Through a series of longstanding regulatory and political economic decisions in the United States, rescued chickens fall out of many spaces of regulation and knowledge production. They are excluded from the Animal Welfare Act; legally, they are considered property; and there is simply no veterinary specialty that focuses on chickens outside of a production setting. Farmed animal sanctuaries take chickens (and other agricultural animals) out of production, asserting that they are not resources, at least not in a traditional sense. In so doing, they face a challenge in part produced and in part exacerbated by these regulatory and knowledge lacunae: how to care for chickens when they have health problems.

In this paper, I use comics to show how sanctuaries gather and develop medical knowledge about rescued chickens. I focus on three chickens at sanctuaries: Pandora the hen, Regis the former fighting rooster, and Gromit the "oops" rooster (a rooster people thought was a hen). The interdisciplinary project of graphic medicine uses comics for medical storytelling and communicating difficult topics in human medicine. Applying graphic medicine to the multispecies health questions intrinsic to chicken rescue, and building on literature on "witnessing" in activism, the history of empirical science, and feminist STS, I illustrate how sanctuary science works, and sometimes doesn't work, through case studies on medical issues associated with egg production (Pandora), mobility (Regis), and aging (Gromit). I also speculate on how witnessing and graphic medicine complement one another as strategies for producing situated knowledge and transforming interspecies relations.

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