Emily Major received her Ph.D. in Human–Animal Studies from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. She received a grant for “Framing Possums: Observations of Conservation Education in Aotearoa New Zealand and Potential for Compassionate Conservation.” This project examined the brushtail possum in Aotearoa New Zealand and how they are framed as a “pest.” Her research consisted of observational fieldwork, semi-structured interviews, and textual analysis of mainstream “possum-as-pest” narratives. She writes:
As a feminist CAS [Critical Animal Studies] scholar, my research seeks to disrupt the objectivity that is so prevalent in Western academia, fusing academic research with compassionate animal activism. One way in which this disruption occurs is through engaging with, and challenging, the beliefs of the wider public about possums through establishing an accessible blog.
In 2021, Emily published a second blog post on her Framing Speciesism blog titled “Prisoners of War,” which describes her reaction to a Facebook video of possum torture. She connected this instance of cruelty to a trend of using the possum-as-“pest” narrative to justify and downplay abuse towards possum. Her first blog post titled “‘Voracious’ Appetites” explained that the interplay among colonialism, human supremacism, and nativism has shaped the narrative of possums as villains and resulted in the aggressive eradication campaign, Predator Free 2050, in New Zealand. Check out her blog to learn more about how possums have become the villains in New Zealand.
Emily continues to maintain Framing Speciesism. Since 2021, she’s published four articles: “Holding the Proverbial Line,” “‘Blacks Rd Possum:’ Woman Meets Hungry Joey,” “Possum Purge,” and “To Cleanse and Purify.” These articles take anecdotes or local news related to possums in New Zealand to jump-start conversations around their negative perception. Her posts help reframe socially accepted activities such as possum hunting festivals, negative news coverage, and possum taxidermy competitions.
In December 2021, Emily spoke about her work at the Flourishing Animals conference organized by the Australian Animal Studies Association. You can watch it here (26:00 minutes). Her talk is followed by fellow 2021 CAF grantee Susan Haris‘s “How to Kill Compassion” (48:00 minutes).