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The transformative potential of counter accounts: a case study of animal rights activism

The transformative potential of counter accounts: a case study of animal rights activism PurposeThe purpose of this paper is to analyze the dynamics and transformative potential associated with counter accounts. It explores how counter-accountants’ attempts to rearticulate animal production result in their own identity becoming constructed during the conflict setting and how this identity subsequently relates to the transformative potential of the counter accounts.Design/methodology/approachThe paper investigates counter accounts released during an animal rights activists’ campaign against industrial meat and dairy production in Finland. The counter accounts, consisting of secretly filmed videos from pig farms, contrasted the official depiction of animal farming and received wide publicity over several years. The main empirical data set consists of 21 interviews with a variety of parties that have a stake in the conflict. This data set is supplemented with a broad set of published documentary material.FindingsThe authors find that the counter accounts managed, to some extent, to rearticulate the meaning of animal production, potentially resulting in the emergence of small-scale societal effects. When trying to undermine the counter-accountants’ radical political demand, the dominant social groups not only dismissed the counter accounts but also attempted to constitute the counter-accountants’ identity as irresponsible, militant and negligent, drawing a firm political boundary between “them” and “us.” Likewise, the counter-accountants seemed reluctant to communicate with representatives of the dominant regime, resulting in an antagonistic as opposed to an agonistic relationship between the two political groups. The paper also discusses ethical questions concerning the production of counter accounts, the importance of having a clearly articulated political vision, and the challenges related to evaluating whether the counter accounts have been successful.Originality/valueThe paper provides insights into the design, use and reception of counter accounts in a real-life social setting, thus providing a direct response to a recent call by Thomson et al. (2015). The paper illustrates the usefulness of the conceptual dynamic conflict arena framework presented by Thomson et al. (2015), and makes use of discourse theory (Laclau and Mouffe, 1985; Laclau, 2005, 2001, 1996) to highlight how in exploring the transformative potential of counter accounts it is necessary to also consider how the identity of the counter-accountants becomes constructed and understood. Furthermore, the paper also seeks to advance the connections between accounting research and significant global problems by investigating an ethically and environmentally disputed industry, and by engaging with the interrelationships between accounts and accountability in the context of socio-ecological change. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal Emerald Publishing

The transformative potential of counter accounts: a case study of animal rights activism

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Publisher
Emerald Publishing
Copyright
Copyright © Emerald Group Publishing Limited
ISSN
0951-3574
DOI
10.1108/AAAJ-12-2015-2324
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

PurposeThe purpose of this paper is to analyze the dynamics and transformative potential associated with counter accounts. It explores how counter-accountants’ attempts to rearticulate animal production result in their own identity becoming constructed during the conflict setting and how this identity subsequently relates to the transformative potential of the counter accounts.Design/methodology/approachThe paper investigates counter accounts released during an animal rights activists’ campaign against industrial meat and dairy production in Finland. The counter accounts, consisting of secretly filmed videos from pig farms, contrasted the official depiction of animal farming and received wide publicity over several years. The main empirical data set consists of 21 interviews with a variety of parties that have a stake in the conflict. This data set is supplemented with a broad set of published documentary material.FindingsThe authors find that the counter accounts managed, to some extent, to rearticulate the meaning of animal production, potentially resulting in the emergence of small-scale societal effects. When trying to undermine the counter-accountants’ radical political demand, the dominant social groups not only dismissed the counter accounts but also attempted to constitute the counter-accountants’ identity as irresponsible, militant and negligent, drawing a firm political boundary between “them” and “us.” Likewise, the counter-accountants seemed reluctant to communicate with representatives of the dominant regime, resulting in an antagonistic as opposed to an agonistic relationship between the two political groups. The paper also discusses ethical questions concerning the production of counter accounts, the importance of having a clearly articulated political vision, and the challenges related to evaluating whether the counter accounts have been successful.Originality/valueThe paper provides insights into the design, use and reception of counter accounts in a real-life social setting, thus providing a direct response to a recent call by Thomson et al. (2015). The paper illustrates the usefulness of the conceptual dynamic conflict arena framework presented by Thomson et al. (2015), and makes use of discourse theory (Laclau and Mouffe, 1985; Laclau, 2005, 2001, 1996) to highlight how in exploring the transformative potential of counter accounts it is necessary to also consider how the identity of the counter-accountants becomes constructed and understood. Furthermore, the paper also seeks to advance the connections between accounting research and significant global problems by investigating an ethically and environmentally disputed industry, and by engaging with the interrelationships between accounts and accountability in the context of socio-ecological change.

Journal

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability JournalEmerald Publishing

Published: Sep 18, 2017

References