Keri Cronin


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Summer Reading, Summer Writing, and Old Habits

My term as Department Chair came to an end on June 30th and since then I have been knee-deep in writing/research. I didn’t get as much done on the book manuscript as I had hoped while being Chair. (Surprise, surprise!) This was very frustrating, but I have spent too much time feeling awful about how behind I am. Onwards and upwards.

So, now I’m pulling up old files and documents. I have been trying to get my head back in the game, trying to remember what I was thinking when I wrote certain sections (in some cases many months or, gulp, even years ago!). I am forcing myself to go back to an old habit I picked up in grad school, free writing. It works. It always amazes me just how effective this is for writing. The trick is to keep up the habit – right now I am still at 15 minutes each session, but I don’t always get around to doing it each day.

I’m doing a lot of reading right now, revisiting texts that I’ve previously read and enjoying some new titles. There are a lot of great books on different aspects of human relationships with nonhuman animals in previous eras. This week alone I have read:

David Grimm’s new book, Citizen Canine
Garry Jenkins’s history of the Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, A Home of Their Own
Neil Pemberton & Michael Worboys’s fascinating history, Rabies in Britain

I’ve also made sure to set aside some time to read fiction, one of my favourite summertime pursuits. Right now I’m enjoying Donna Tartt’s most recent book, The Goldfinch. I’m not that far in to it yet, but so far I love it!

Summertime reading - Miss Jenny isn't sure what to make of this book.

Summertime reading – Miss Jenny isn’t sure what to make of this book.


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Come for Congress, Stay for Niagara VegFest

Our campus is getting ready to host the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences later this month (May 24-30), and I am looking very forward to seeing colleagues who are coming to Niagara from across the country. I will be participating in a few panels, and will also be part of the group hosting the Social Justice Research Institute reception. There is so much going on during Congress!

For those of you traveling to Niagara for Congress, I invite you to consider staying on an extra few days to take in the Niagara VegFest weekend festivities.

Things get started on the 30th of May with the Niagara premiere of the award-winning documentary film, The Ghosts in Our Machine. We are delighted that the film’s Director, Liz Marshall, and the film’s human star, Jo-Anne McArthur, will be in attendance for the screening. They will be joined by Jasmin Singer and Mariann Sullivan from Our Hen House for a Q&A after the film. You don’t want to miss this!

The official festival kick-off party takes place on Saturday, May 31st at Mahtay Cafe. The party will be hosted by Jasmin Singer and Mariann Sullivan of Our Hen House. There will be live jazz (The Shea D Duo), delicious snacks, and beer and wine from Niagara College.

Then, on Sunday, June 1st, the 3rd annual Niagara VegFest takes over Market Square in downtown St. Catharines. There will be over 70 vendors/exhibitors, food trucks, speakers, workshops, live music, a “family zone,” as well as beer and wine from Niagara College. Admission is free and all are welcome!


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Undercover Investigations

Today a new undercover investigation in to cruel practices on veal farms in Canada hits the mainstream media – the Toronto Star has this story on the front page of today’s paper, and tonight CTV’s W5 will air an investigative report. This is the latest in a string of mainstream media attention focusing on cruel practices that are considered “industry standard” on Canadian farms. Thanks to undercover investigations by Mercy For Animals Canada, a number of mainstream media outlets have run prime time/front page stories about the horrific ways in which farmed animals are treated in this country.

The response from industry has been predictable, that these are “isolated incidents,” and yet mounting evidence pointing to the fact that this kind of behaviour is routine undermines this defence. Workers in this industry have come forward to share their stories, and their testimony makes it clear that there is a larger pattern at play here. In addition, these scenes captured by undercover cameras are strikingly similar to scenes uncovered by undercover investigators in other countries.

The footage obtained through these investigations is, undoubtedly, disturbing. It is hard to look at, and many people don’t want to watch it. “Don’t show me that,” they say, “I can’t stand to look at it.” These abuses take place out of sight and, as the industry hopes, out of mind. This is precisely why film footage and photographs taken during these undercover investigations is so important – they make visible what is otherwise culturally invisible. This also speaks to the important role that visual culture plays in activist efforts. There is a long history of activists using imagery in this way, a history that dates back to the 19th century.

I will be writing more about this for an upcoming column for Our Hen House, but for now I just wanted to acknowledge the significance of today’s breaking news and to thank both Mercy for Animals Canada and the media outlets who are brave enough to run these stories for all they are doing to make these stories front and centre.


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Update on the Porch Cats

Remember the porch cats?

I’m a bit overdue with an update on this front, although if you follow me on social media you already know how this story unfolds!

So, we managed to get both Ernie and Ollie in to the house. It was such a brutally cold winter and I’m so glad we got at least two of them off the streets. We got Ollie to the vet right away, got her checked out, vaccinated, spayed, etc. and she very quickly integrated in to our household. Ernie, on the other hand, proved to be a bit more challenging to deal with. It took a long time for us to be able to get near Ernie, but eventually Ernie started coming out for food. It wasn’t long before we noticed Ernie’s expanding belly – our Ernie was an Ernestine and she was about to have kittens! We managed to move her up from the basement to one of the bedrooms just hours before she went in to labour. We now have 4 beautiful kittens in our house as well. All have homes waiting for them when they are old enough to be weaned. The night they were born we had a horribly cold blizzard – I’m not sure they would have survived. I’m so glad that we were able to get Ernie inside in time! She is such a wonderful mom, so patient and gentle with these wee kittens. It has been amazing to watch them grow up.

The kittens have tons of fans through social media – if I go too long without posting a photo of them people write to ask if the kittens are ok. They have even been featured on an episode of the new Our Hen House TV show!

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Porch Cats – An Update

Before Christmas I posted about the “porch cats” who have been visiting our house. We have been spending a lot of time watching, feeding, and setting up shelters for a group of apparently homeless/stray/feral cats. Some of them seem truly feral (e.g.: they run away if we even look at them from a distance), some of them are a lot more used to human company. The one little black and white cat we named Ollie has been especially communicative with us. She would arrive on our porch each morning between 6:30 and 7am and would sit on our “welcome mat” by the door meowing for her breakfast.

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When the cold snap hit last week Ollie seemed to be making an extra effort to communicate with us – she meowed a little longer and louder than she had before and didn’t leave the porch immediately after breakfast like she usually did. She started to hang around more and more. One day after we had received a large amount of snow I looked outside to see little Ollie up to her armpits in a snowbank in our garden, meowing her head off. She seemed stuck and was having trouble getting out of the snowbank. I pulled on my boots and went out to grab her – I didn’t really have a plan, but I knew I couldn’t leave her out there to freeze to death in a snowbank in our garden. I brought her in the house and took her down to the basement because I wanted to keep her separate from our house cats. At first she completely freaked out – I’m sure she has never been in a house before – but she slowly started to settle down and found a warm, comfortable spot to curl up in. Within a few days she was sitting on my lap purring when I came to visit her. Part of me knows that I couldn’t leave her out in the cold, and yet there is a part of me that feels so bad for scooping her up and taking her away from her pals. Did we do the right thing?

We took Ollie in to the community vet clinic the other day and had her checked out. She had fleas, but otherwise she seemed in good health. She got the standard deworm/de-flea/vaccination treatment and we will book her in for a spay soon. I’m not sure what will happen long-term, whether or not Jenny (our senior kitty who hates cats) will let us keep her, but we have some leads one some potential homes for her if things don’t work out.

The rest of the porch cats are still out there – they won’t let us get near them. We didn’t see much of them during the cold snap, but since it has warmed up they have been back around for food and have been using the shelters I’ve set up on the front porch. I was so worried about them and was so glad to see them when they all showed up yesterday.

There are so many cats in need, so much work to do. Sometimes I get overwhelmed just thinking about it. I guess it is one cat at a time.

A number of kind and generous people have come forward to help out with the food for our porch kitties since I first posted about them. We are so grateful for your assistance, and I know that the cats appreciate the food. I get so sad thinking about all these cats with no loving, warm home to curl up in, but then I am heartened by how many people truly want to help change the situation. Thank you.


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Introduction to Visual Culture

I’m about to step back in to the large first year class that I was originally hired to develop, “Introduction to Visual Culture.” For a number of years this was my class, but I eventually cycled out of it. This Winter marks the first time I’ve taught it in a while and I’m quite excited about it. I really love the material and the opportunity to introduce students from a wide range of backgrounds and disciplines to thinking critically about images.

To everyone back teaching today – have a wonderful term!


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Farm Sanctuary Internship

During the semester break I had one of the best experiences of my life! I did an internship at Farm Sanctuary and spent my holidays helping out with the shelter operations. It was a ton of work, but it was also one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. What a perfect way to spend Christmas! To spend that much time around rescued animals and to be directly working with them and their caregivers was an absolute privilege.

If you care about farmed animals (and why wouldn’t you?), you need to sign up to be an intern. For real. Do it!

I will be writing about my experiences as a shelter intern in a series of columns for Our Hen House in the coming weeks, so I won’t say too much here, but in the meantime here are some pictures of some of the incredible animals I met during my internship.

Maxie!

Maxie!

Baba Ganoush, the handsomest rooster on the planet.

Baba Ganoush, the handsomest rooster on the planet.

Hanging out with Thunder, the gentle giant.

Hanging out with Thunder, the gentle giant.

Dottie is a very curious goat!

Dottie is a very curious goat!

Ormsby

Ormsby

Aunt Bea

Aunt Bea

Dagwood and his stuffed bunny pal.

Dagwood and his stuffed bunny pal.

Sleeping Sebastian.

Sleeping Sebastian.

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