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Queen's University
 

Department of Philosophy

Animals in Philosophy, Politics, Law & Ethics

Affiliated Scholars

Sue Donaldson is an independent author and researcher. She is co-author (with Will Kymlicka) of Zoopolis: A Political Theory of Animal Rights. Her current writing is focused on expanding and deepening the book’s model of human-animal relations based in conceptions of citizenship, denizenship, and sovereignty. She is also interested in practical applications of this model, and is on the Board of Directors for the newly established Zoopolis community – an intentional community of domesticated (primarily ‘farm’) animals and humans located north of Kingston. The goal of Zoopolis is to explore new forms of egalitarian inter-species community, both as a practical venture, and a theoretical model. The most challenging dimension of this model is its commitment to supporting the agency of animal members, enabling them to be co-creators of the shared community in ways that are meaningful to them. (cliffehanger@sympatico.ca)

Will Kymlicka is Canada Research Chair in Political Philosophy at Queen’s. His current research focuses on “The Frontiers of Citizneship”, and in particular on struggles to extend norms and practices of citizenship to historically excluded groups, ranging from children and people with intellectual disabilities to indigenous peoples and animals. All of these cases challenge inherited ideas of what defines the attributes of a (good) citizen, and in much of the popular debate and academic literature, attempts to extend citizenship to these groups is often seen as somehow diluting the fundamental values of citizenship. His work disputes this view, and seeks to show how these struggles for inclusion deepen citizenship in Canada and elsewhere. His paper on “Animals and The Frontiers of Citizenship” (co-authored with Sue Donaldson) was presented as the 2013 HLA Hart Memorial Lecture at Oxford University, and will be published in the Oxford Journal of Legal Studies. (kymlicka@queensu.ca)

Christine Overall is a Professor of Philosophy and holds a University Research Chair at Queen’s.  Her primary focus in animal studies is on questions in reproductive ethics that can be raised in connection with non-human animals, especially domesticated animals.  She is interested in normative issues created by the human control of animal reproduction through breeding programmes, scientific interventions, and other expressions of power over animal behaviour.  These include questions about the propagation and sterilization of animals, the genetic manipulation of individual animals and species, the potential for the creation of chimeras, and the survival and destruction of species.  She presented a paper entitled “How Many Domesticated Animals Should There Be?” at the “Cosmopolitan Animals” conference, held at the University of London in October, 2012.  Her most recent book is Why Have Children? The Ethical Debate (MIT Press, 2012).

Mick Smith is jointly appointed between the School of Environmental Studies and the Department of Philosophy at Queen’s. His current work (funded by a SSHRC Insight grant on ‘Ethics, Politics, and Ecological Community’) is focused on developing a radically different understanding of ecological community. This involves re-conceptualizing the gap between scientific understandings of community ecology, which focus on providing external, ‘objective’, descriptions of ‘natural’ processes and relations in particular places, and humanist accounts of what it means to belong to ethical and political communities regarded as culturally constituted only within and between human beings. Ecological and ethical/political theory currently fail to speak to each other in very fundamental ways (epistemologically, methodologically, ontologically) when it comes to trying to understand the diverse relations between beings that might actually create and sustain communities that are both ecologically and ethico-politically constituted even as they are marked by ineradicable differences between individuals, populations, and species. This work further develops and extends  ethical and political themes in his recent Against Ecological Sovereignty (University of Minnesota Press, 2011) and links to his involvement in the Extinction Studies Working Group, the new journal Environmental Humanities and his role as a founding editor of Emotion, Space and Society (including editing a special issue on Emotion and Ecology). He teaches two courses in the Philosophy Department which intersect with some aspects of critical animal studies: PHIL 293 Humans and the Natural World and PHIL493/893 Environmental Philosophy, and supervises graduate students in allied areas. (ms24@queensu.ca)

Katherine Wayne completed her PhD in September 2013; her dissertation is titled "Toward a Virtue-Centred Ethics of Reproduction" and she was supervised by Christine Overall, Department of Philosophy, Queen's University. She has commenced a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellowship, and is working with Will Kymlicka in the area of animal ethics.  Specifically, Katherine will examine the morality of bringing domesticated animals into existence, either with human intervention or through animals’ own volition. Animal rights scholars often assume that domestic animals have inviolable rights and that humans have a duty of care towards them as dependents. Yet it remains a legitimate question as to whether domestic animals can be incorporated into the community in a way that ensures their living good lives. Equally pressing is the question of whether domestic animals introduced into the community will impede the well-being of others. Thus the morality of domestic animal reproduction in a mixed and interdependent community is open to scrutiny. The following questions inform Katherine’s research: What are the conditions of permissibility and desirability of bringing domestic animals into existence? And how does the dependence of animals on humans shape our obligations to them and the nature of their rights, in regard to reproductive behaviours?  She will also consider policy-guiding implications that these theoretical conclusions may have in terms of the way Canada manages (some subset of) its domestic animal population. ( katherine.wayne@queensu.ca )

Zipporah Weisberg is the Abby Benjamin Postdoctoral Fellow in Animal Ethics in the philosophy department at Queen’s University. She recently completed her Ph.D. in Social and Political Thought at York University. She is especially interested in how phenomenology and cognitive ethology (or the non-invasive study of animal behaviour) can jointly inform an interspecies ethics. Both traditions shed light on different aspects of animal subjectivity—from a given animals’ perceptual nuances, to its sense of space and time, to its social and emotional needs. In so doing, phenomenology and cognitive ethology help dismantle Baconian/Cartesian mechanism which has distorted our understanding of animals for centuries and paved the way for extreme violence against animals. In uncovering the richness and complexity of animal subjectivity, phenomenology and cognitive ethology make it incumbent upon us to take animals’ well-being seriously, to widen our ethical sphere beyond the narrow confines of the human, and to create the conditions for animals to flourish and live meaningful lives. An interspecies ethics grounded in phenomenology and cognitive ethology is therefore necessarily incompatible with the ongoing objectification and commodification of animal life—both of which actively and dramatically undermine animals’ quality of life and lead to unspeakable suffering—and instead insists that animals be allowed to co-exist with humans on their own terms. (zipporah.weisberg@gmail.com)

Research Partners

The Centre for Animals and Social Justice (CASJ) -- Sheffield, UK

http://www.casj.org.uk/  

The Centre for Animals and Social Justice is a new think tank, founded by leading academics and animal advocates, which heralds a unique and innovative approach to advancing animal protection. The CASJ is dedicated to research, education and policy engagement that establish animals’ rightful status as recipients of social justice. 

Enshrining animal protection as a fundamental social value entails recognizing that the protection of animals is not something that can simply be left to the whims of private individuals, societal custom or market forces.  If the protection of animals is to be in any way robust, it is absolutely crucial that the state takes an active role.  Just as we should not leave child protection or the fight against discrimination to the goodwill of individuals and business, so must animal protection be promoted and enforced by good government legislation.  Furthermore, animal protection does not just require appropriate animal welfare and anti-cruelty laws.  Instead, robust animal protection demands consideration of how all state actions and policies affect the lives of animals.

The CASJ believes that there is huge potential for moral progress. Public attitudes towards animals are generally more compassionate and enlightened than those implicit in actual behaviour, industry practices and public policy, which continue to cause widespread and extensive harm to animals. Complementing and supporting the activities of existing NGOs, the CASJ occupies a vital niche in the animal protection cause, producing the knowledge and advocacy that is essential to both persuade society to respect animals and translate ethical aspirations into effective animal protection.

CASJ and APPLE look forward to future collaborations on establishing a framework and institutions for democratizing animal protection policy.

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