Department of Philosophy



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Professor Christine Overall has edited a new book entitled Pets and People: The Ethics of Our Relationships with Companion Animals

Published by Oxford University Press (New York), Pets and People is a collection of articles by philosophers from the United States, Canada, Australia, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. The book focuses on ethical issues connected to a category of individuals who play an extremely important role in human lives: companion animals (“pets”), with a special emphasis on dogs and cats. Companion animals are both vulnerable to and dependent upon us. What responsibilities do we owe to them, especially since we have the power and authority to make literal life-and-death decisions about them? What kinds of relationships should we have with our companion animals? And what might we learn from cats and dogs about the nature and limits of our own morality?

The contributors write from a variety of philosophical perspectives, including utilitarianism, care ethics, feminist ethics, phenomenology, and the genealogy of ideas. The eighteen chapters are divided into two sections, to provide a general background to ethical debate about companion animals, followed by a focus on a number of crucial aspects of human relationships to companion animals. The first section discusses the nature of our relationships to companion animals, the foundations of our moral responsibilities to companion animals, what our relationships with companion animals teach us, and whether animals themselves can act ethically. The second part explores some specific ethical issues related to crucial aspects of companion animals' lives: breeding, reproduction, sterilization, cloning, adoption, feeding, training, working, sexual interactions, longevity, dying, and euthanasia.

Pets and People is dedicated to the memory of the late Jean Harvey, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, whose work was the inspiration for the book.

Oxford is offering a pre-order discount for Pets and People, which can be accessed at