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Publication - Dr Maria Paula Escobar-Tello

    Paperwork and the decoupling of audit and animal welfare

    The challenges of materiality for better regulation


    Escobar-Tello, MP & Demeritt, DB, 2016, ‘Paperwork and the decoupling of audit and animal welfare: The challenges of materiality for better regulation’. Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, vol 35., pp. 169?190


    This article uses the case of animal welfare to contribute to academic debates about audit and
    better regulation reforms designed to reduce administrative burdens and increase regulatory
    effectiveness. Combining desk-based policy document analysis, on-farm field visits, and 31
    interviews with livestock farmers and animal health and welfare inspectors in England, it
    explores farmers’ record-keeping practices and the contrasting role regulatory records are
    understood to play in assurance and good animal husbandry by farmers, regulatory inspectors,
    and veterinary experts. Farmers experience record-keeping as something they must do to satisfy
    external regulatory demands rather than anything that good farmers might themselves use in
    caring for their livestock. As a result they regard paperwork as burdensome and often fail to
    comply with record-keeping requirements. By contrast, inspectors and animal welfare experts
    frame record-keeping and analysis as central to good animal husbandry and to a properly
    anticipatory approach to managing animal health and welfare. Those veterinary-medical
    presumptions about farm practice inform both the design of specific animal welfare recordkeeping
    requirements and their self-effacing conceit as being about peering over the farmer’s
    shoulder to audit already existing records. Our findings highlight the dual tendency for the
    practice of regulatory record-keeping to become decoupled from both the formal
    requirements and from the quality of care that paperwork is meant to assure. Our analysis
    extends the critical literature on audit and regulation by drawing on the materialist tradition of
    science and technology studies to elucidate how this decoupling is shaped by the physical form
    and materiality of records themselves.

    Full details in the University publications repository