Inbetween animals, humans and law – Empathy work by animal welfare inspectors in Sweden
In February 2017 I set out to explore the working conditions of ten animal welfare inspectors from two different county offices in Sweden. Reported as permeated with emotionally charged difficulties but never before researched from an emotion theoretical perspective, the daily work in animal welfare inspection calls for further investigation. Approximately ninety hours of shadowing and four interviews were conducted in order to understand the day-to-day work of inspectors and how it is managed emotionally. In this article, I argue that psychosocial stress and epistemic tensions (frustrations concerning clashing knowledge) are two central challenges for inspectors. Thereto, a new analytical concept, empathy work, is constructed in order to understand how inspectors work with empathy when approaching these challenges and pursuing animal welfare goals. In addition, bureaucratic procedures and ventilation are identified as crucial emotion management techniques relating to empathy work.