Humans share their lives with a wide range of other animal species for diverse and often conflicting reasons. Non-human animals are kept for food, fiber, work, transportation, and entertainment; they are hunted for subsistence and for pleasure; they are the subjects of paintings, literature, film, sculpture, and dance; they are demonized as vermin, predators, monsters, and pests; they live in our homes as companions, helpers, protectors, and status symbols; they are subjects of our scientific research; they provide insights into our own evolution and behavior. As humans, we worship, hate, fear, love, and ignore the other animals around us. We both anthropomorphize and objectify them. Indeed, the existence of non-human animals in these many conflicting roles has led to animals being at the center of frequent debates about their proper roles in our society. This course explores the spaces which non-human animals occupy in American culture and the debates centered about them.
The goal of this course is to examine the evolution of modern human-animal relationships and consider some of the major social and scientific debates that have arisen in the last century as a result of our rapidly changing and diverse views about animals. Fundamentally, this is a course in anthrozoology, an interdisciplinary field encompassing sociology, anthropology, psychology, economics, philosophy, veterinary medicine, animal sciences, and public policy. As such, this course will address a variety of topics by looking at perspectives from these diverse fields with an emphasis on sociological frameworks.
At the completion of this course, students should be able to:
1. Trace the evolution of Western culture’s understanding and use of animals.
2. Explain the major philosophical positions relative to animal issues;
3. Articulate the role of personal experience, family, popular culture, religion, politics, and profession in shaping their viewpoints about animals.
4. Explain and evaluate the cultural implications of keeping certain species of animals as pets;
5. Explain and evaluate key issues regarding using animals for scientific research;
6. Explain and evaluate the various viewpoints surrounding raising animals for food and fiber;
7. Critically evaluate information disseminated by animal use industries, animal care professions, and animal protection groups;
8. Apply relevant areas of scholarship in multiple disciplines in addressing debates concerning the care and use of animals.
9. Effectively articulate the complexities of an animal centered debate to the lay public.