Eimear Mc Loughlin

Department: Sociology, Philosophy, and Anthropology
Discipline: Sociology and Philosophy

Project Summary

Slaughterhouse Culture: An Ethnography of Animal Slaughter in Denmark

The visibility of animal slaughter in Denmark contrasts starkly with the modes of concealment typical of slaughterhouses in industrialised societies. Members of the public can enter a pig slaughterhouse and participate in a tour of the facility, tracking the animal from the slaughterhouse gate to the dinner plate. Interestingly, Denmark boasts one of the highest meat consumption rates in the world. This transparency of animal slaughter transcends the slaughterhouse to other arenas of animal consumption. 

​My ESRC-funded PhD involves a 13-month ethnographic fieldwork wherein I will interrogate Danish cultural attitudes towards animals and explore how these are influenced by visibility of animal consumptive practices. In collaboration with a Danish zoo, I will conduct participant observation as well as semi-structured interviews with staff. I will carry out a significant ethnographic study of a Danish slaughterhouse using a variety of sociological and anthropological research methods.



Supervisory Team

Dr. Julien Dugnoille

Lecturer in Anthropology (Education and Research)

Research Expertise

Human-animal interactions, East Asia (Korea and Japan), Visual Anthropology and Philosophy.

Professor Henry Buller

Professor of (More-than) Human Geography

Head of Geography

Research Expertise

Animal Geographies, Rural Geography, Agriculture and Environmental Policy.

Professor Harry G West

Professor of Anthropology

Head of Sociology, Philosophy and Anthropology

Research Expertise

Political Anthropology, Anthropology of Food, Farming and Agrarian Society.

Wider Research Interests

Previous/Ongoing Projects

Knowing Cows: Transformative Mobilisations of Human and Nonhuman Bodies in the Slaughterhouse

In an 'emotionography' of the slaughterhouse, I explored how emotions are negotiated and neutralised within the confines of the slaughterhouse walls. Benefiting from the literature on dirty work and the sociology of emotion, I studied how bovine bodies are differentially constructed by workers and farmers both within and beyond the slaughterhouse gates through participant observation, semi-structured interviews and visual methodologies.

McLoughlin, E. (2018) Knowing Cows: Transformative Mobilisations of Humans and Nonhumans in an Emotionography of the Slaughterhouse. Gender, Work and Organ. p. 1-21. 


#SaveBenjy: Sexuality, Queer Animals and Ireland

Benjy the gay bull rose to global notoriety in November 2014 when he failed to impregnate the heifers he was purchased to inseminate and thus, Benjy’s only fate was the slaughterhouse. A crowdfunding petition led by an animal rights organisation and a gay rights network saved Benjy from certain slaughter on the basis that Benjy should be gree to be gay, entwining narratives of sexual autonomy with animal rights discourse. #SaveBenjy was a remarkable phenomenon for a number of reasons, from its timeliness, whereby his plight emerged in the months prior to the historic same-sex marriage referendum in Ireland, to the recognition of non-human animal non-normative sexuality being respected, protected and celebrated. In my published article, I employ queer theory to explore Benjy’s rise to fame amidst an Irish cultural landscape in flux.



Animal Desires: Revitalising socio-biological and evolutionary theories on animal sexualities 

I am working with Dr Julien Dugnoille on a project exploring the non-normative desires of nonhuman animals. This project will document same-sex and non-reproductive acts for the pursuit of individual pleasure among nonhuman populations. This will be done with a view to revisiting existing scientific theory about nonhuman sexualities biased by homophobia. In dialogue with academics in the natural and human sciences, we will problematise how same-sex consortship is communicated in scientific discourse. We argue that not only can acts of non-reproductive, especially same-sex, pleasure in nonhuman animals be understood as
adaptations that benefit the individual and/or the population but also as the idiosyncratic desires of each specific individual, as is the norm in human populations. 

Mc Loughlin, E. & Dugnoille, J. (forthcoming 2018) Animal Desires: Revitalising socio-biological and evolutionary theories on animal sexualities with nonhuman forms of pleasure. In: Ingold, T. and Dugnoille, J. (forthcoming 2018) ASA monograph of 2015 conference at the University of Exeter. Bloomsbury.  


Associated Research Interests

  • Anthrozoology
  • Animal Slaughter
  • Sociology of Emotion
  • Queer Animals
  • Animals as Food
  • Anthropology of the Senses
  • Visual Anthropology
  • Denmark
  • Ireland

Authored Publications/Reports

McLoughlin, Eimear (1st October 2015) #SaveBenjy: Sexuality, Queer Animals, and Ireland, Humanimalia: a journal of human/animal interface studies, 7:1, 109-122

McLoughlin, E. (7th May 2018) Knowing Cows: Transformative Mobilisations of Human and Nonhuman Bodies in an Emotionography of the Slaughterhouse, Gender, Work and Organisation, Special Issue, 1-21