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Smallholder knowledge-practices and smallholding animals: threats or alternatives to agricultural biosecurity?

Holloway, Lewis


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Professor Lewis Holloway
Professor of Human Geography, Director of Research (School of Environmental Science), Chair of the Faculty of Science and Engineering Ethics Committee


This paper responds to claims that smallholders in the UK farming landscape present a biosecurity threat to commercial farming, by exploring smallholders’ perspectives on animal health and their practising of biosecurity, studied through focus group research in England. Biosecurity in animal agriculture has emerged as a key research theme, with attention paid to how biosecurity is both conceptualised and practised in different farming situations. Biosecurity, as an effort to make life safe, is viewed as an articulation of political and scientific discourses with on-farm practices and particular farming and food systems. The paper draws on recent theorisation of biosecurity to discuss smallholders’ engagement with the health of their animals and with biosecurity practices, and to explore their relationships with vets and commercial farmers. Contesting representations of themselves and their practices as bioinsecure, smallholders instead contend that commercial farmers and farming produce more risky disease situations, and that smallholding fosters relationships of care and response-ability more likely to engender animal health and welfare. At the same time, smallholders and farmers are involved in attempts to piece together a practical biosecurity under different pressures. The paper argues that within the complex topologies of heterogeneous farming landscapes, the ‘small scale’ of smallholding is constructed as problematic, and that there needs to be an acknowledgement of a politics of biosecurity in which different modes of practicing farming are debateable.


Holloway, L. (2019). Smallholder knowledge-practices and smallholding animals: threats or alternatives to agricultural biosecurity?. Journal of rural studies, 69, 19-29.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 18, 2019
Online Publication Date May 3, 2019
Publication Date 2019-07
Deposit Date Apr 23, 2019
Publicly Available Date Nov 4, 2020
Journal Journal of rural studies
Print ISSN 0743-0167
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 69
Pages 19-29
Keywords Biosecurity; Animal welfare; Smallholding; Livestock; England
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This is the accepted manuscript of an article published in Journal of rural studies, 2019. The version of record is available at the DOI link in this record.


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