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Queen's University
 

Courses in Animal Studies

PHIL 296 Animals and Society -- Winter Term 2014

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 -- Winter Term 2014

Instructor:  Kassy Wayne

This course involves examination of the ethics of human-animal relationships, both interpersonally and politically. Rather than supplying a broad historical survey of these relationships and how they have been interpreted and evaluated philosophically, we will focus on contemporary material that reflects the (recently) rapid progress of animal ethics.  For the past several decades, animal ethics discourse was dominated by a debate between abolitionists and welfarists. Recently, however, a wellspring of progressive literature has emerged, and offers alternative responses to the question of how humans may and should interact with animals. Of this material, we will focus particularly, but not exclusively, on the relationship between humans and domesticated animals (which include farm, companion, and lab animals).  

Domesticated animals raise distinctive ethical issues because of how their exploitation is made possible through their dependence on us, which is a dependence that humans created.  For instance, a number of contemporary scholars argue that because we took domesticated animals out of the wild and bred them to be dependent on us, we owe them special duties not owed to wild animals, including duties of care. Of these commentators, some propose a relational model of obligations to animals, which has the history and nature of relationships to different kinds of animals inform our determinations of what humans owe to them. Under this approach, domestic animals are interpreted as being owed membership in human society.  Others, supporting what has been called the abolitionist position, argue that precisely because domestic animals have been bred to be dependent on us, their lives are inherently unnatural and degraded. Abolitionists conclude that we should stop bringing domesticated animals into existence.  In this class, we will examine and evaluate these and other (e.g., interest-based) ethical approaches to human relationships with domestic animals, with attention to how different views of these relationships conceptualize and regulate relationships between humans and domestic animals.



LAW 250 Animals, Politics and the Law -- Fall Term 2013

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.


Kingston, Ontario, Canada. K7L 3N6. 613.533.2000