Yamini relaxing with a pig friend

About Yamini

Research Areas: Critical Animal Studies, Sustainability, Urban Development
Specialised Knowledge
: Animals/nonhumans and urban planning, Animals and religion/heritage, South Asia/Indian cities, Women and planning, Religion and planning
Current Position: Australian Research Council DECRA Senior Research Fellow, Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation, Deakin University
Qualifications: Doctor of Philosophy (Murdoch University, 2008)
Has Worked In: Australia, India, England

For Out More:

Meet Dr Yamini Narayanan

Dr Yamini Narayanan’s research focuses on the exploitation of animals as resources during urban development and the role of religion in this exploitation. Yamini is developing frameworks for multi-species inclusive urban planning that considers the requirements of non-human residents in urban environments. Yamini is also a passionate vegan and carer for many hens rescued from factory farming.

Here is what Yamini had to say about veganism and how it has influenced her research.

Why are you vegan?
Three years ago, a friend’s post about tortured bunnies in cosmetics testing appeared on my Facebook feed. This was not the first time she had posted on animal cruelty; however it was the first time that I froze in shock. A rabbit with a large patch of her fur scraped raw, burnt and stitched sat huddled at the very far corner of a shoebox of a wire cage. The terror in her wide eyes, and her attempt to avoid the camera’s gaze was unmistakable. She had nothing in that stark cage, not even a small bowl of water behind which she could cower. Shortly afterwards, I witnessed one of PETA’s most agonising exposes – the ripping of rabbit fur from screaming live bunnies by Chinese rabbit farm workers for the angora industry, and I wept openly in a busy central Melbourne cafe where I was writing. I had lived with thirteen rabbits as a child, and knew them to be cheeky fiery personalities. An undeniable connection had been made.

This was the beginning of a conscious exploration and active seeking out of production processes involved in the consumption of any animal or animal product. As a vegetarian born and raised, I had blithely assumed – indeed, had not even considered otherwise – that my footprint of animal abuse and violence might remotely match, indeed, possibly even exceed an omnivore with a simpler lifestyle that didn’t involve leather boots and bags, and a fondness for chocolate. At the very least, this was an astounding insight into the sheer, insidious scale of animal violence that had managed to invade almost every corner of even a vegetarian home. Every feminist principle I mistakenly assumed I stood by lay exposed for its hollow foundations. Sexual violence to both male and female of all species runs rampant throughout animal industries, and every animal product is a product of gendered and/or explicitly sexual violence.

How does a vegan ethic inform your research?
At a professional level, it became impossible for me to disconnect the animal reality from my work. Overnight, I switched focus and fields from a decade in sustainable development and feminist planning, to critical animal studies. I did not even have a CAS bibliography, I knew no theories, foundational works, or names in this area. However never have I felt more at home or authentic in any discipline, and in the last two years, I have developed a focus on the nexus between animals and urban planning, and animals and religion. My work on cow protectionism in India brings these two threads together.

Buffalo walking down an Indian street
FreeImages.com/R T

How does your research contribute to ending the oppression of non-human animals?
Cow protectionism is enshrined in the Indian Constitution as the fundamental duty of Indian citizens, and cow slaughter is prohibited in most states in the country. However India today is the world’s leading exporter of beef, including of carabeef or buffalo beef. Unpacking what cow protectionism means for the cows and indeed, the entire animal advocacy movement in India has become my large research agenda. My work in this space has begun to be published in various journals including Environment and Planning D, Society and Animals, Sustainable Development, and a number of media forums.

Would you like to add anything else?
My work on bovine exploitation takes me to some of the darkest spaces of fear, terror and chilling indifference. I returned to Melbourne with a desperate need to ‘do penance’, and be rescued myself – I needed to do something, get some animals out these holes of horror, and the most obvious candidates in my limited backyard space were industry chickens. My husband and I were as mesmerised by the girls as any new parents when they first arrived, exclaiming in delight over everything they did! This was salvation, but also again an entire firsthand spectrum of education, as I became intimately acquainted with the multitude of violences inflicted on chicken bodies, in stark contrast with their supremely intelligent, quirky and affectionate personalities. I am convinced that chickens are so intelligent that they even have a sense of humour. My next research project, I already know, will be on the wonderful world and nation of chickens!

Three rescue hens roosting together on a stick
Some of the beautiful rescued girls who now share a home with Yamini.