Mara is a Reader in the School with research interests in the areas of Animal Geographies, Post-humanism; Human/non-human animals' relations; Food consumption practices; Ethical consumption.
- Final degree (Laurea) in Agricultural Economics (Magna Cum Laude) at Pisa University (Italy), (1984).
- PhD in Social Sciences (dissertation in sociology) at Wageningen University, (2001).
- Reader (2012 to present) Cardiff School of Planning and Geography, Cardiff University.
- Senior Fellow (2004 to 2012) Cardiff School of Planning and Geography, Cardiff University.
- Senior Lecturer (till-2004) Department of Agronomy and Management of the Agro-ecosystem, Pisa University.
Awards and Prizes
Ashby Prize for her paper “The taste of happiness: free-range chicken”, awarded by Environment and Planning A for the most innovative papers published in the 2011.
Animal Geographies, Post-humanism; Human/non-human animals’ relations; Food consumption practices; Ethical consumption.
More Than Humans
In recent years, my work has developed in dialogue with sociologists and geographers, sharing a general concern with human/non-human animal relations and an attentiveness to human/non-human animal encounters and interfaces. I have looked at food practices as one of these interfaces. Inspired by the work of Elspeth Probyn and Sarah Whatmore among others, I have looked at eating as a way 'to find ourselves in various assemblages, produced and producing ourselves anew'.i
I have developed a growing interest in how ethical relations are enacted and articulated within the different practices and encounters between human and non-human animals. I have become particularly fascinated by the new technologies and social organisations that are transforming the habitats of both farm animals and humans, new breeds of farm animals and new animal farming systems in which humans and animals interact. These assemblages of animals and farming technologies offer insights into the diversity of ideas about good farming and into the specificity of the perceptions of what constitutes a good life for animals. They also entail different interpretations of the ways in which human and non-human animals can interact.
I am currently working on two projects that offer me the opportunity to explore these issues: the first project is the EU-funded 6th Framework Integrated Project Welfare Quality® (2004–2009). I started to work on this project with Jonathan Murdoch, Emma Roe and Adrian Evans (Mara Miele, Jonathan Murdoch and Emma Roe, 'Animals and ambivalence: governing farm animal welfare in the European food sector', in V. Higgins and G. Lawrence (eds), Agricultural Governance, Routledge, 2005). I am continuing this work with Adrian Evans, Marc Higgin, Matthew Cole, John Law and Joek Roex. Welfare Quality® is dedicated to the development of a European Standard for animal welfare through a large collaborative effort of animal scientists and social scientists from more than 50 Universities and research laboratories in Europe and Latin America. The animal scientists working in this project have developed animal-based welfare assessment protocols for several classes of farmed animals, based on scientific findings from welfare science research groups in EU Member States. The project is now beginning to examine possible mechanisms for using these assessment protocols to evaluate different animal farming practices. An important outlet for project publications is the Welfare Quality Report series, of which I am co-editor with Joek Roex.
The second project is the EU SSA project Dialrel (2006–2009) with Adrian Evans and Marc Higgin. This project is dedicated to the investigation of practices of religious slaughter (for halal and kosher foods) and aims to establish a dialogue between the various stakeholders involved in these practices and animal scientists and NGOs to address animal suffering at time of slaughter.
The approach we adopt in these two projects draws on the tradition of science and technology studies (STS), actor-network theory (ANT), and material semioticsii and aims to explore the technologies of bonding between human and non-human animals. In addition, it is important to explore how these technologies are enacted and performed within farming practices and within both conventional and religious slaughter practices by following the assemblages of moral and religious discourses, animals, farmers, consumers, researchers, practitioners, engineers and technologies that constitute them. An important dialogue in this work has been with natural scientists involved in experiments and research on the importance of non-human animal emotions in the production of knowledge about the boundaries between animality and humanity for addressing broader societal concerns about human and non-human animal relationships. I am particularly interested in how this dialogue, cultivated through working with animal scientists in these two projects, can develop my understanding of the process of knowledge production, scientific practices and expertise development. While explicit concerns with culture and the location of politics have been the main focus of large parts of science studies in the last two decades, I am interested in exploring how the ‘working together’ of animal scientists and social scientists towards the production of a joint tool or research outcome is affecting both social and natural scientists’ situated logics, practices of knowledge production, and how it is moulding our expertise.
i Elspeth Probyn, Carnal Appetites: FoodSexIdentities, Routledge, 2000.
ii Donna Haraway, The Companion Species Manifesto: Dogs, People, and Significant Otherness, Prickly Paradigm Press, 2003; Bruno Latour, Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network Theory, Oxford University Press, 2005; John Law and John Hassard, Actor-Network Theory and After, Blackwell Publishing, 1996; John Law, 'Actor-network theory and material semiotics', Link to publication, 2007; Jonathan Murdoch, Post-Structuralist Geography: A Guide to Relational Space, Sage Publications, 2006.
I developed an interest in emerging practices of food consumption around concerns for sustainable development, social justice, environment and animal welfare. Between 1998 and 2007, I coordinated and participated in a range of projects concerned with different ethics and aesthetics of practices and materialities of food consumption. My main interests here were the boundaries between ordinary-ness and reflexive-ness of such practices in everyday life (‘Consumption culture? The case of food’, in P. Cloke, T. Marsden and P. Mooney (eds), The Handbook of Rural Studies, Sage, 2006). I developed these research interests in collaboration with Jonathan Murdoch, especially within our research on Slow Food in Italy between 1998 and 2005. We addressed these relational issues in a series of articles: 'The practical aesthetics of traditional cuisines: Slow Food in Tuscany' (Sociologia Ruralis, vol. 42, no. 4., 2002), 'A new aesthetic of food? Relational reflexivity in the 'alternative' food movement' (in M. Harvey, A. McMeekin and A. Warde (eds), New Dynamics of Innovation and Competition, Manchester University Press, 2004), 'Culinary networks and cultural connections: a conventions perspective' (in A. Hughes and S. Reimer (eds), Geographies of Commodity Chains, Pearson Education, 2003), 'Fast food/slow food: standardizing and differentiating cultures of food' (in R. Almås and G. Lawrence (eds), Globalization, Localization and Sustainable Livelihoods, Ahsgate, 2002). I am continuing this line of research in my interests in Cittá Slow, the slow cities network. Between 1998 and 2001, I collaborated with Vittoria Parisi in a project investigating the ethics and aesthetics of eating meat through Italian consumers’ attitudes to animal welfare. The findings of this research are presented in a reserach monograph (Mara Miele and Vittoria Parisi (eds) Atteggiamento dei consumatori e politiche di qualità della carne in Italia e in Europa negli anni novanta, Edizioni Franco Angeli, 2000).
In the following years, I participated in other researches on consumers attitudes to organic and fair-trade products and political consumption.
More recently, I have become interested in children’s consumption practices. I had the opportunity to pursue this interest in an ESRC funded project ‘Delivering Sustainability: Towards the Creative Procurement of School Meals’, (2005–2008) with Kevin Morgan, Terry Marsden, Roberta Sonnino and Tania Bastia, here in Cardiff. In this project, I am looking at five case studies of school children in the UK and Italy. I am interested in exploring the food habits of children, their tastes for food, their knowledges about local cuisine and the plants and animals that they know as foods, the places they frequent when they eat, the friends/relatives they share food with, and the tools and materials they use and encounter while eating. My interests lie in exploring technologies of belonging that the children use and how they get a sense of place or become emplaced in a locality through the food practices they develop and their sensual experiences of food.
Rurality and Farming
For my doctoral research, I carried out fieldwork in Italy, Germany and the Netherlands with organic farmers, wholesalers, shopkeepers and policy-makers in order to study the social organisation of the emerging market for organic products in Europe and its implication for rural and environmental policies aimed at promoting sustainable development. This work has been published as a research monograph (Mara Miele, Creating Sustainability: The Social Construction of the Market for Organic Products, Wageningen University, 2001).
In the following years, I worked as a Senior Lecturer at Pisa University and continued the research on rural development in collaboration with colleagues in Pisa (Gianluca Brunori, Diego Pinducciu, Antonella Ara), Wageningen (Jan Douwe van der Ploeg, René de Bruin, Henk Renting, Dirk Roep), Cardiff (Jonathan Murdoch, Terry Marsden), Frankfurt (Karlheinz Knickel) and many others within the EU-funded project IMPACT (The Socio-economic Impact of Rural Development Policies). This project set out to understand the impressive and multi-dimensional heterogeneity of European agriculture, conceptualised in terms of farming styles (Jan Douwe van der Ploeg). The research identified the emergence of new development trajectories and the heterogeneous (re-)moulding of nature expressed in fields, animals, plant varieties, and foods.
I have continued a strand of this research within the EU-funded project ESoF (Entrepreneurial Skills of Farmers, 2005–2008) looking at Italian farmers, farmers leaders and policy-makers with Terry Marsden, Diego Pinducciu, Antonella Ara and Selyf Morgan. In this project, I am looking at farming as a practical activity, and I am interested in the heterogeneities of the relationships that it produces between human and non-human animals, devices and landscapes. Within this general interest, I am currently exploring the forms of emplacement emerging from farming practices and the emotional construction of place through embedded skills and expertise.
2013: EUWelNet, Coordinated European Animal Welfare Network, DG-Sanco funded project, 1 year, 26 partners, 1Million Euros.
2010-2015: Welfare Quality Network Member of the management team.
2012 - 2014: Principal Investigator ‘Assessment of the application of the EU 2010 directive on meat chickens’ welfare’. DEFRA, £270,000 (with Bristol and Reading Universities)
2012: Principal Investigator ‘The halal meat market in Wales, potentials and barriers’, Welsh Government, £20,000 June- September, 2012. ‘Report on Halal Slaughter Practices in Wales’ (2013) by Mara Miele, Karolina Rucinska, Haluk Anil.
2004 - 2009: Welfare Quality Project Steering Committee member – EU 6th Framework Integrated Project, 51 European partners and 4 partners from Latin America, overall project budget €17m (EU contribution €14.4m);
Coordinator of Science Society Dialogue activities (SP5);
Overall Coordinator of the comparative qualitative investigation on Consumers (focus group research in 7 EU countries) and Principal Investigator for the research on consumers in Italy;
Principal Investigator for the social science investigation of the implementation of the monitoring system in the UK;
Principal Investigator for the Citizens Juries in the UK and in Italy;
Principal Investigator for Cardiff University, budget €2.4M.
The Welfare Quality Protocols for improving animals welfare:
Final Stakeholder Conference, Uppsala, October 2009.
2006 - 2010: Dialrel General Project Coordinator of Dialrel – EU 6th Framework SSA Coordinator of WP4, budget for Cardiff University € 295,000 Euros
2006 - 2008: IAASTD Coordinating Lead Author of the Summary Report on Trade and Regulation for the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) of the World Bank; Coordinating Lead Author of Chapter 2, Part 2 of the North America-Europe Sub-global.
2007 - 2008: Warming Foods, Pilot study of the contribution to global warming of the food supply chains, budget £20,000.
2005 - 2008: Delivering Sustainability Co-investigator with Prof. Kevin Morgan and Prof. Terry Marsden for ESRC research grant Delivering sustainability: towards the creative procurement of school meals, budget £193,435.
2005 - 2008: Principal Investigator for the UK of EU - ESoF (STREP), Entrepreneurial Skills of Farmers, budget for Cardiff University €103,400.
2004: Obesity and Genomics Principal Investigator for Italy of Obesity and Genomics (Dutch Ministry of Research and University), budget €24,000.
2001 - 2004: Conversion Principal Investigator for Italy of Overcoming Barriers to Conversion to Organic Farming in the European Union through Markets for Converion Products (Conversion, partners: Great Britain, Italy, Ireland, Denmark and Portugal) EU 5th Framework Programme - QRLT-2000-01112).
1998 - 2001: Impact Co-investigator of The Socio-economic Impact of Rural Development Policies: Realities and Potentials (6 partners: the Netherlands, Ireland, Italy, Great Britain, Germany, Spain) EU - FAIR CT-98-4288, budget €45,000.
1998 - 2001: Animal Welfare Principal investigator for Italy of Consumer Concern About Animal Welfare and Food Choice (5 partners: Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, France, Germany) EU - FAIR CT98-3678 EU-ELSA-DGIV, budget €170,000.
MSc Geography, module leader for Geographical Research in practice (10 hours);
MSc Sustainability, Policy, Environment and Planning (SPEP), contribution to teaching to the modules: Environmental Policy and Climate Change (12 hours), Environmental Behaviours (8 hours), Sustainability Research (4 hours). Master Classes on Participative Research Methods: Citizen Juries (4 hours);
Courses City and Regional Planning and Human Geography and Planning, module leader of Rural Society, Planning and Space (24 hours) and contribution to teaching to Environmental Policies and Planning (19 hours).
From 2013-14: Course Human Geography, Geographies of Consumption, (30 hours), Animal Geographies (16 hours).
New Book - Improving farm animal welfare. Science and society working together: the Welfare Quality approach.
edited by: Harry Blokhuis, Mara Miele, Isabelle Veissier and Bryan Jones
How do you define the quality of life of a farmed animal? This timely book addresses the complex and often controversial issues surrounding the assessment and improvement of farm animal welfare. It synthesises the huge body of work carried out between 2004 and 2009 by the largest ever international network of scientists and stakeholders working in the EU funded project Welfare Quality. It describes some of the obstacles encountered in developing a dialogue between science and society, the proposed solutions and why particular paths were chosen. The book provides a valuable source of knowledge on farm animal welfare for social and animal scientists, students, teachers, policy makers, lobby groups and the animal industry.
2013, 232 pages, paperback, edited volume
Price (€): 54.00 (excluding VAT)
Also available as an e-book
Download table of contents of the book 'Improving farm animal welfare'. (PDF file).
New report on Halal Slaughter Practices in Wales (2013) by Miele, M., Rucinska, K. and Anil, H. is now available.
House of Beasts Symposium: Enquiries into the Human and the Animal
Shrewsbury, 18th February 2012
Organised by Meadow Arts and hosted by Shropshire Wildlife Trust
The video of Mara's presentation, 'A journey to a slaughterhouse: Geographies of killing, technologies of care', is now available to view.
EU Animal Welfare Strategy 2012-2015 Conference - "Empowering consumers and creating market opportunities for animal welfare"
Brussels, 29th February - 1st March 2012
- Further information is available on the European Commission Conferences webpage.
- Mara's presentation, 'How to influence consumers', is available to view as a pdf file.
Welfare Quality Report Series Complete
The series of Welfare Quality Reports (19 vols) has now been completed. Individual reports are available for download.
New Report on Consumers' Attitude to Animal Welfare
Miele, M. (2010) 'Report concerning consumer perceptions and attitudes towards farm animal welfare' Official Experts Report EAWP (task 1.3), Uppsala: Uppsala University.
This report is an official deliverable of the EU VII Framework project European Animal Welfare Platform.
Food Programme on BBC Radio 4
Mara participated in the Food Programme on BBC Radio 4, broadcast on Sunday 21st February, which looked at the growing demand for halal meat in Britain. The programme can be heard again on BBC iPlayer Console - Food Programme: Halal.
Press Release from Dialrel on Recommendations for Good Practice
The Dialrel project has now ended and the final document, Improving Animal Welfare during Religious Slaughter, Recommendations for Good Practice, is now available.
Letter to NewScientist about Religious Slaughter in Europe and the EU project Dialrel
A letter sent to NewScientist has been published in the Opinion session of the issue 2377 on November 4th, 2009 with the title 'Meat for a ritual'.