Savia Berlucchi, Fall 2021
While humans and animals may not be able to communicate with each other, they can respond to each other emotionally. These emotional responses and sensations produced by human-animal interactions can be defined as affect. Parreñas’s 2012 article, “Producing affect: Transnational volunteerism in a Malaysian orangutan rehabilitation center,” explains affect through orangutan rehabilitation centers in Malaysia. Both the orangutans and the workers/volunteers at the center are vulnerable to dangers due to the fact that neither body can completely understand the other, and this misunderstanding can possibly lead to violent accidents among the humans and orangutans (Parreñas). To prevent this, the workers rely on affect. When working with the orangutans, they pay particular attention to body language and behavioral patterns in the orangutans in order to know how to take proper care of them and be safe in their work environment (Parreñas). The workers respond to the emotions that the orangutans are displaying, therefore producing affect.
Another example of affect is demonstrated in Zulkifli’s 2013 paper, “Review of human-animal interactions and their impact on animal productivity and welfare.” Zulkifli studies how farm animal’s interactions with humans can impact their health and productivity. In this case, affect produced between a farmer and animals can create major consequences for the animal’s wellbeing and the farmer’s livelihood. Repetition of negative human-animal interactions causes stress in the farm animals, which can lead to higher blood pressure, behavioral changes, weaker immune response, and more (Zulkifli). In order to avoid health issues, the paper recommends regular positive human interactions. Affect is needed to accomplish this, because the farmer must pay attention to how an animal is responding to human encounters, and react accordingly in order to prevent stressing the animal.
Additionally, affect is an important aspect for the relationship between service dogs and their owners. Some individuals rely on service dogs for their health and safety, so the stakes are high. Medical alert or psychiatric service dogs in particular must utilize affect to help their owners. Dogs can’t directly communicate with humans, so they observe their owner’s behavior, scent, and more to detect if something is wrong and to assist their owner properly (Karetnick). Their owners can then react positively to assistance and therefore feel better. Affect constitutes these patterns of interactions that form the relationship between service dogs and owners.
Affect can lead to more ethical conservation because it helps establish a method of understanding between humans and animals. Humans can’t talk to animals to try and understand their emotions and needs, but we can pay attention to an animal’s behavior, health, and more to see what an animal is trying to convey. Affect also involves what a human feels during a human-animal interaction, so if a person has positive emotions when interacting with an animal, that person may be more inclined to protect that animal. Through this practice, conservationists can be more motivated to protect a certain species or animals in general, and can look to animals to see how best to protect them.
Karetnick, Jen. “Service Dogs 101: Everything You Need to Know about Service Dogs.” American Kennel Club, American Kennel Club, 24 Sept. 2019, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/service-dog-training-101/.
Parreñas, Juno. “Producing Affect: Transnational Volunteerism in a Malaysian Orangutan Rehabilitation Center.” American Ethnologist, vol. 39, no. 4, 2012, pp. 673–687., https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1548-1425.2012.01387.x.
Zulkifli, Idrus. “Review of Human-Animal Interactions and Their Impact on Animal Productivity and Welfare.” Journal of Animal Science and Biotechnology, vol. 4, no. 1, 2013, https://doi.org/10.1186/2049-1891-4-25.