I am researching the use of the concept of sustainability with regard to its intention to include the protection of animals. In the broader context, the intersection of sustainability and animal protection include the relationships humans have with animals, that is wildlife and by extension, with nature; with companion animals; farm animals and animals that occupy the space inbetween those categories. There is a stream of thought in the sustainability discourse that considers such an extended view of sustainability important for a sustainable future for this planet overall.

To investigate this intersection of sustainability and animal protection, I use the practice of horseracing as a case study. The horse is situated within and between the socially constructed categories of animals listed above. Moreover, the horseracing industry is considered an industry of global economic significance. As other animal using industries, its practices are increasingly coming under scrutiny, and in many jurisdictions, the horseracing industry is grappling with its sustainability and public perception of animal welfare. The industry’s understanding of what constitutes sustainability, animal welfare, and how it addresses issues of public perception and its social license to operate, all form part of this investigation. Participants of this study are individuals from the US, UK and Australia, including senior executive and administrative staff of the horseracing industry.

In the wake of the ratification of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the questions this research addresses have significance at the level of policy globally, since governments, industries, higher education institutions and the not-for-profit sector across the globe have begun to adopt the SDGs.

My background is in capacity building for sustainability. With this project I have the opportunity to apply the ideas and concepts in the intersection of sustainability and animal studies with a new perspective. I start from the premise that true sustainability and animal (and ecological) protection are mutually enhancing agendas.

I have been supported in this research as a PhD researcher through a University of Sydney Postgraduate scholarship, funded out of an Australian Research Council Discovery Grant (ARC DP130104933).

My “official” entry into animal studies came in 2009 with a research project on Australians’ attitudes towards industrial animal agriculture. For this project, I was awarded a grant from Voiceless the animal protection institute. I was then based as Research Fellow at RMIT University. Since 2013, I am based at the University of Sydney, School of Geosciences.

Here are the various ways to get in touch or follow my work:

Iris Bergmann, PhD Scholar
School of Geosciences, Faculty of Science, University of Sydney

The University of Sydney, School of Geosciences




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Updated 8.2.2018