PHIL 296 Animals and Society -- Winter Term 2015
Instructor: Zipporah Weisberg
This course provides students with an introduction to historical and contemporary debates regarding attitudes towards and treatment of nonhuman animals within Western societies, and explores our ethical and political responsibilities toward them. Some key guiding questions of the course include: What criteria or characteristics make nonhuman animals worthy of moral consideration? The capacity to suffer, self-awareness, possessing emotions or reason? If animals are worthy of moral consideration, are they also capable of being agents or participants in the shaping of human-animal relations? Are there ways in which we can structure social and political life to make them more responsive to the preferences and goals of animals themselves? To help answer these questions, this course examines a wide range of human-animal relations, including the use of domesticated animals as food, pets, working animals, or research subjects, as well as our relations with wild animals (including both animals in the wilderness and the urban wildlife that lives amongst us). In all of these contexts, Western societies have historically operated on the assumption that humans have the right to use, and if necessary to harm or kill, animals for our benefit. Yet the traditional religious or scientific justifications for this claim have increasingly been challenged as we learn more about the mental and emotional capacities of animals. Indeed, an increasing number of animal rights theorists and practitioners argue that there is no valid justification for the right to use animals for our benefit. We will explore these debates over the status of animals, and consider what society would look like if we fundamentally rethought our relations to animals. Existing laws typically define animals as the property of their human owners – a framework that many critics argue is unable to afford any true protection to the rights and interests of animals. Various models have been proposed to supplement, or entirely replace, this property framework, including proposals to accord legal standing or legal personhood to animals, to recognize companion animals as members of the family, to accord farm animals and service animals the rights of workers, to accord wilderness animals rights to territory, and more generally to recognize animals as members of our political community, with rights to representation or citizenship. In exploring these debates, we will consider their complex links to other forms of social differentiation which have defined some people as less than fully human (e.g., in relation to gender, race and class). How would ‘animal liberation’ impact on the struggles of women, racial minorities, indigenous peoples and others?
PHIL 497/897 Ethics and Animals -- Fall Term 2014
Instructor: Will Kymlicka
Animal Rights and the Frontiers of Citizenship
This course sits at the intersection of two recent developments in political theory: the first is the demand by animal rights theorists to include animals as full members of the moral community; the second is the trend towards using "citizenship" as the central organizing concept for advancing claims of justice (reflected, for example, in the way that demands for women's rights, gay rights, disability rights, children's rights, minority rights etc have all been rearticulated as movements for new forms of citizenship). Given these two trends, it is natural to consider whether the claims of animal rights can also be articulated in terms of citizenship. In this course, we will examine to what extent citizenship theory can illuminate some of the central moral issues that arise in human-animal relations, and conversely, to what extent the case of animals can illuminate the strengths and limits of different conceptions of citizenship. In particular, the case of animals forces us to reconsider traditional assumptions about the capacities required for citizenship (eg., capacities for rational deliberation or public reason); about our conceptions of political agency, participation and representation; and about the nature of political communities (eg., the rules of membership, territorial boundaries, etc).
LAW 250 Animals, Politics and the Law -- Fall Term 2015
Instructor: Will Kymlicka
Animal law is one of the fastest-growing areas of law both domestically and internationally, but is also highly contested. Existing laws typically define animals as the property of their human owners – a framework that many critics argue is unable to afford any true protection to the rights and interests of animals. Various models have been proposed to supplement, or entirely replace, this property framework. This seminar will explore existing legislative regimes related to animals in Canada and internationally, and the limited protections they offer. We will then explore a range of proposals by animal rights advocates for future reform of animal law. These include proposals to accord legal standing or legal personhood to animals, to recognize companion animals as members of the family, to accord farm animals and service animals the rights of workers, to accord wilderness animals rights to territory, and more generally to recognize animals as members of our political community, with rights to representation or citizenship. While many of these proposals may seem utopian, we can see preliminary manifestations of these ideas surfacing in a number of recent legal cases and campaigns for legislative reform. In Lesli Bisgould’s terms, we can see a possible shift from “animal law” to “animal rights law”. We will discuss the prospect for real change in this field, and the capacity of law to serve as a vehicle of justice for animals. Student evaluation will be based upon attendance, in-class presentations and a course paper. There will also be an opportunity for a limited number of students to enrol in an additional 3-credit independent study project to develop a legal opinion on a specific legal issue of animal law confronting Canada today.