"Living with Animals" Conference Attracts Presenters from 10 Countries

Paintings and other craft projects by an orangutan. Methods of "asking" animals how they feel. The use and misuse of animals in World War I. Ethics in animal sanctuaries.


A photographic survey of pet cemetery headstones. Animal-assisted therapy. Sustainable grazing by farm animals. The responses of pet owners and their animal companions after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.


That's just a sample of the topics and features at the second biennial "Living with Animals" international conference at Eastern Kentucky University March 19-21. EKU, home to the world's only undergraduate degree program in Animal Studies, is expecting presenters and attendees from 10 countries, including Japan, Poland, Denmark and Russia.


Much like EKU's unique academic program, the conference will be quite multidisciplinary in content, blending psychology, biology, sociology, anthropology, gender studies, literature, the arts, law, agriculture, ethics and other disciplines.


Naturally, in this part of the country, several sessions and a photography exhibit are devoted to the horse. Other sessions focus on a wide range of animals – dogs, cats, elephants, whales and apes and more.


"The point is to find out how we do live with animals, and also how we can and should live with animals, and they with us," said Dr. Robert Mitchell, coordinator of EKU's Animal Studies Program and a co-organizer of the Conference, along with faculty colleagues Dr. Radhika Makecha and Visiting Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence Dr. Michal Pregowski.


One of the more interesting sessions is an exhibit devoted to the art of Chantek, an orangutan raised by human caregivers at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where he learned gestural signs based on American Sign Language and began to finger paint at about two years of age. At first, he exhibited patterns and techniques similar to young children. In later years, his paintings came to resemble Asian calligraphy. He also completed a variety of simple craft projects.


Artist and art historian Julia Schlosser, co-organizer of the previous conference at EKU, will exhibit her photography on pet-human interaction and give a keynote address about her work. Other keynote speakers are animal welfare researcher Ian Duncan, who suggests "Asking the Animals" to find answers to welfare issues, and Marie-Jose Enders-Slegers, "The Human Animal Bond and Further Professionalizing of Human-Animal Interventions: Theories, Results and Challenges."


Like the EKU academic program, the focus of the conference is on human-animal interaction, our efforts to understand animals and how to teach university courses about animals and animal-human interaction.


The keynote sessions, at 9 a.m. each day, are free and open to the public. Visitors wishing to attend other sessions or the entire conference must register through the "Conference Registration" link at livingwithanimals.eku.edu.


All sessions will be held in John Grant Crabbe Library.


To see a complete schedule of the conference as well as abstracts from the presenters, visit livingwithanimals.eku.edu.


For more information on EKU's Animal Studies Program, visit psychology.eku.edu/animal-studies-major.

Published on February 28, 2015

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