AS629 Food Choice and Animal Protection

Course Description

Discourses and debates surrounding the human diet have undergone a dramatic shift in light of contemporary trends. In recent decades, the consumption of meat, fish, and other animal products has escalated in the developed world. As hundreds of millions of people in the developing world are entering the global consumer class the trend is becoming global. This constitutes an immense challenge on several levels: the moral standing of animals; food production for a growing human population; pollution of air, land, and water; and public health. In light of these momentous converging issues, philosophical, advocacy, environmental, and health critiques of the animal products industry are on the rise. From its erstwhile status as a marginal, even narrowly religious lifestyle, a plant-based diet is increasingly emerging as a rational and sustainable option for a greater portion of the public. 3 credits

Course Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of the course, students will be able to:

  • Articulate the major philosophical and cultural viewpoints that have shaped our view of biology and other animals from prehistoric times to the present.
  • Understand the basic mechanisms behind biological evolution
  • Demonstrate familiarity with the historical timeline of plant-based diets
  • Describe the history of the modern factory farm and its global expansion
  • Understand the problems of food production and consumption in relation to animal sentience, especially as documented through cognitive ethological studies
  • Comprehend the environmental impacts of the meat/fish/animal products industry
  • Appraise the role of the animal rights and animal welfare movements in advocating plant-based food choices
  • Critique the ethical, ecological, economic, and health impacts of meat/fish/animal products industry
  • Critique the effects of animal products and processed foods on human wellbeing and cultural diversity

Course Topics

(Subject to Change)

  • Historical perspectives of food choice and animal protection
  • The emergence of factory farming
  • The challenge of animal ethics from the cognitive ethological turn
  • The animal rights case for a plant-based diet
  • The animal holocaust?
  • Animal welfare case for humane treatment of farm animals
  • Environmental impacts of contemporary food production
  • Diet and human health, wellbeing and diversity

Course Materials

(Subject to Change)

  • Kalof, Linda and Amy Fitzgerald, eds. 2007. The Animal Reader: The Essential Classic and Contemporary Writings. Berg.
  • Singer, Peter, ed. 2006. In Defense of Animals: The Second Wave. Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
  • Coetzee, J.M. 1999. The Lives of Animals. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • Dawkins, Marian Stamp and Roland Bonney, eds. 2008. The Future of Farming: Renewing the Ancient Contract. Blackwell Publishing.