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Animal Rights and Wrongs

12:30 Seminar

The history of human interaction with animals is literally as long as human history itself.  For example, modern crocodiles have been around for about 75 million years, which is roughly 375 times as long as anatomically modern humans and at least 30 times longer than the genus Homo.  We humans are what we are because of the pressures that animals imposed on us throughout our evolutionary history. 
     Our relationship with animals is also incredibly complex.  On one hand, we are animals; the genetic differences between humans and chimpanzees are 10 times less than those between mice and rats.  On the other hand, the average human’s abilities in the area of mathematics, language, invention, the use of tools, and so on, far exceed those of the average chimpanzee.  On one hand, we tenderly pamper animals; pet dogs and cats, for example, frequently get cushy beds to sleep in.  On the other hand, we coldly slaughter animals at a mind-boggling rate—around 90,000 cows per day and 14,000 chickens per minute in the U.S. alone.
     This course is an exploration of our long and complex relationship with animals.  It aims to give us insight into how we ought to treat them, and in turn to provide a powerful and unique lens through which we can see and understand ourselves.  It will do so by drawing from a wide range of media, including: religious holy texts, academic journals, newspaper articles, magazine features, short stories, television programs, undercover videos, professional documentaries, Hollywood films, and in-person interaction with actual animals!  Disciplines represented will include: sociology, religion, cognitive science, history, biology, philosophy, nutrition, law, economics, business, politics, ecology, and medicine.