Ethology is the study of behavior as an adaptive trait. Specifically, ethology views natural selection as influencing behavioral traits in the same manner it impacts animal morphology and physiology. Cognitive Ethology deals with comparative approaches to the study of behavior across species and has raised many challenging questions, even implications, regarding animal thinking, awareness and reasoning. Applied Ethology has to do with the study of behavior especially as it relates to animal welfare issues. Animal welfare can be said to deal with how animals ought to be treated. Thus, this course will span across topics dealing with animal behavior as a science into the ethical issues of how we ought to treat animals. Animals have played important roles in basically all aspects of human life including food, clothing and shelter, transportation, religion, warfare, medicine, scientific research, sport and entertainment, and companionship. And the use of animals continues to make many important contributions to enhancing human quality of life today. However, applied ethicists and others are increasingly questioning the appropriateness of some uses of animals. Much of the ethical concern has to do with recognition that other animals are also sentient beings – that is they have a type of self-awareness and can feel pain. This course will include: (1) an overview of the history of animal use from early domestication to modernity; (2) the role science has played in increasing our knowledge of animal behavior, including sentience; and (3) the importance of ethics in determining how we humans ought to treat animals.
This course is not designed to tell students what attitudes they should hold about animal treatment. The course will present required readings in combination with essay-writing assignments. These assignments will form the basis from which students will be expected to critically examine their own personal beliefs toward animals. Additionally, by listening and through active contribution to group discussions, each student will be expected to facilitate an exchange during class periods that will allow all enrolled student to gain a fuller understanding of other persons’ attitudes towards animal treatment.