International development represents a massive multi-billion-dollar industry which stretches across the world seeking to improve human economic and social wellbeing. Yet, a certain group of participants who are often key to the success of numerous projects, such as in food security, poverty alleviation and global health initiatives, are left invisible through the process: animals.
How are animals involved in international development initiatives? How do animals influence development outcomes? Can animal welfare improve both animal and human outcomes across the world? These are the questions SSHRC CGS – Master’s recipient Danielle Legault is tackling as she embarks on her MA thesis research to uncover the hidden roles of animals in Canadian international development.
Danielle’s research challenges the human-centric nature of development, by centering animals as actors of socio-economic change, exploring their historic roles, global relationships, and potential futures.
This research pairs Danielle’s love of animals with her curiosity for the world. The topic of her research presented itself when Danielle was introduced to Animal Geographies and quickly discovered that an animal perspective was sorely missing from development theory and practice; only represented in photos or counted as economic units, rather than considered as living creatures with significant capacity for generating impact.
Danielle’s thesis takes a case study approach to the 124-million dollar Canadian International Food Security Research Fund that oversaw 39 small-holder farming projects from 2009 to 2018 in 25 countries, using the case study to illuminate the current roles of animals in sustainable development practices.
In the face of the climate crisis and rising global food insecurity, the challenge has been set to the international community to sustainably feed and uplift people out of poverty while taking into consideration the impacts of, and on, animals and the environment. The challenge also exists for academics and policymakers alike to see animals as worthy agents of sociocultural study in themselves.
Danielle looks towards the future in her research by exploring the concept of One Welfare, which asserts that global well-being can only be achieved by addressing the intercontnected needs of animal, human, and environmental welfare simultaneously. She believes that by highlighting the role of animals in development, we can lay the groundwork for a more integrated approach to global well-being that considers animal welfare as an essential component. This understanding can position Canada as a leader in promoting the well-being of all living beings, not just humans, on the global stage.
Danielle Legault is a second-year MA student in the Critical Human Geography program, supervised by Dr. Alice Hovorka. She holds a bachelors of Global and International Studies, specializing in Global Development from Carleton University, and has previously published two peer-reviewed articles on large-scale land acquisitions in Gabon and Ethiopia.