Abbate’s Animal Ethics & The Law Syllabus

Animals Ethics & the Law (PHIL 352)

Dr. Cheryl Abbate
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Assistant Professor of Philosophy
Office Location: Virtual- WebEx; T & TH 2:30-3:45

Communication Policy

My preferred method of contact is e-mail: During the week, you can expect to receive a response from me within the 24 hours after you send an e-mail. Please note that I may be away from my computer some weekends, so you should expect a response from me within the 48 hours after you send an e-mail over the weekend.

About the Course

Course description

In Animals Ethics and the Law, you will think critically about the human-animal connection. Together, we will pursue meaningful investigations into what morality demands when it comes to human-animal interactions, and we will consider what legal systems must do to promote flourishing human-animal communities. This is a service learning course, and we will work in partner with All Friends Animal Sanctuary (Links to an external site.), a new local Las Vegas farmed animal sanctuary. While you will not be required to physically visit the sanctuary, you will “visit” the sanctuary virtually, and based on these “visits,” you will spend approximately 10 hours over the course of the semester helping to build aspects of the sanctuary’s website, to include: developing animal sponsorship packages, basic website design, and/or t-shirt design. This is a unique opportunity we have to help a brand-new sanctuary in its very important efforts to help save animal lives. The service learning component of the course will begin during week 5, as we discuss farmed animal welfare.

*All required readings will either be posted on Canvas or a link will be provided. You will need to sign into your library account to view some of the articles.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course, you should be able to:

  • describe the concepts of morality, harm, and obligation, as they apply to animal ethics,
  • understand the dominant moral theories in philosophy and the related concepts of harm and obligation,
  • apply the dominant theories of morality and various conceptions of harm & obligation to applied animal ethics topics,
  • compare and contrast the dominant moral theories (in particular, their conceptions of harm and obligation) in regard to their application to the applied animal ethics topics we cover in class,
  • develop one’s own ideal moral principle by building upon the theories discussed in class,
  • evaluate the dominant moral theories and competing conceptions of harm and obligation, as they intersect with the applied animal ethics topics we cover in class, and
  • make honest and well-reasoned judgments about what morality demands of you, both as an individual and as a member of various groups, when it comes to the ethical treatment of animals.

Student Responsibilities/Class Assignments

Quizzes: Most weeks, there will be two reading quizzes. The quizzes will be a mixture of T/F, multiple choice, and short answer questions. For the most part, each quiz will contain 4 questions, and you will have 12 minutes to complete each quiz. I will provide further guidance about “unusual” quizzes (i.e., quizzes that don’t take this form). Take good notes on both the lecture videos and the assigned readings before taking the daily quizzes. 

Discussion Board Posts: There will be at least one weekly discussion forum, and in some cases, two. For each discussion forum, I will post a question for you to answer. In some cases, you’ll be required to read a short online article before answering the week’s question. Discussion posts should be between 300-350 words. Posts that are not at least 300 words will receive, at most, half credit. Each week, you must respond to one of your classmate’s discussion posts. You will be put into a “discussion group” at the start of the semester (a group of 5 students), and you will remain in this same group throughout the semester. Responses to classmates should be between 100-150 words.

Final Project: Relating Animal Ethics to Contemporary Life. For this assignment, you will be required to find a recent (no more than two years old) news article about a moral issue pertaining to the moral treatment of animals. You will be required to address the topic and argue for a solution by appealing to a defensible moral principle of your choosing. This paper should be 8-10 pages, double spaced. Please review the “Relating Animal Ethics to Contemporary Life” document on Canvas for a detailed description of the assignment. Note:

  • You must submit your paper topic (with a recent online news article about the topic) on October 26th (students who fail to do so will lose 5 points from their final project grade)
  • You must turn in your formalized argument and paper introduction on November 9th

Service Learning Reflection Paper: In this 2-3 page paper, you will describe how you helped All Friends Animal Sanctuary (Links to an external site.) throughout the semester, and you will reflect upon the meaning of this. In this paper, you should draw on and apply our discussions about positive moral obligations and farmed animal welfare. We will discuss your reflections during our final WebEx meeting.

Participation: To receive participation in this class, you should respond to at least one of your classmates’ discussion forum posts each week (responses should be between 100-150 words).  In your responses, you must somehow further the conversations, such as by presenting an objection to something a classmate says or by pointing out some morally relevant consideration that your classmate missed. Simply writing something along the lines of “I agree with what you said” will not get you any participation points! There are 15 weeks of class, and for each week, you have the possibility of receiving 1 participation point. I will assign these points at the end of each week, so there are no surprises at the end of the semester.  You can also receive participation points by actively participating in the WebEx Discussions.

WebEx Discussions: While all lectures will be posted online in the form of a video, we will have weekly required WebEx discussion meetings. For the most part, these meetings will occur on Thursdays (although there are two weeks when we will have meetings on Tuesday). You should come to these meetings having read the assigned articles & having watched the assigned videos (including the video lecture) for that day. Note that these meetings are purely discussion based– I will not lecture at all, as I will expect that you will have watched the video lectures for the week before the WebEx discussions. You should come to the discussion sessions prepared with thoughtful questions about the week’s topics, objections to the arguments covered that week, comments, etc. These weekly discussion meetings are required, and will last for one hour, but I am happy to stay longer to chat with those who have lingering questions/thoughts about the week’s topics. 

“Extra Credit”: *If your participation is excellent in this course (i.e., if you consistently leave good quality forum posts and consistently participate in the WebEx sessions in meaningful ways), I will bump your final grade up one half a letter grade. 

Grading Criteria

28%: Quizzes
22%: Discussion Board Posts
5%: Formalized Argument & Paper Introduction
20%: Final Project: Relating Animal Ethics to Contemporary Life
10%: Service Learning Project Reflection
15%: Participation

Course Schedule

Assignment Due dates

Major Assignments

  • October 26th: Paper topic & news article due
  • November 9th: Formalized argument & paper introduction due
  • December 1st: Service learning reflection paper due
  • Finals Week: Final project due (Relating Animal Ethics to Contemporary Life)

Reoccurring Assignments

  • Reading Quizzes are due by 4:00 p.m. on Tuesdays & Thursdays
  • Discussion Forum Posts are due by 4:00 p.m. on Tuesdays & Thursdays
    • Responses to classmates are due by 11:59 p.m. on Fridays

Weekly Schedule

Week 1: Introduction to Animal Ethics

  • Tuesday: Course Overview
    • Read: The Syllabus
    • Watch: “Welcome Video,” & “The Superior Human”
    • Write: Discussions 1A & 1B: The Superior Human
    • Answer:Take the Syllabus Quiz & Service Learning Survey
  • Thursday: Speciesism & Equality/ WebEx Discussion
    • Read: Peter Singer, “All Animals are Equal” & Bonnie Steinbock “Specieism and the Idea of Equality”
    • Watch: “What is Speciesism?” (interview with Richard Ryder) & lecture video
    • Write: n/a
    • Answer: Quiz 1 

Week 2: Ethical Theory & Animals: Moral Individualism 

  • Tuesday: Utilitarianism and Animals (Welfarism)
    • Read: James Rachels, “The Utilitarian Approach” (pgs 79-81 & 84-89) & Gary Francione, “Animal Rights Theory and Utilitarianism: Relative Normative Guidance” (sections I & II)
    • Watch: lecture video
    • Write: Discussion 2: Utilitarianism & Animals
    • Answer: Quiz 2: Utilitarianism & Animals
  • Thursday: Animal Rights (Abolitionism)/WebEx Discussion
    • Read:Tom Regan, “The Case for Animal Rights”
    • Watch: Tom Regan’s 8 minute speech & lecture video
    • Write: Discussion 3: Animal Rights Theory
    • Answer:Quiz 3: Animal Rights Theory

Week 3: Ethical Theory & Animals: Beyond Moral Individualism

  • Tuesday: Virtue Theory & Animals
    • Read: Rosalind Hursthouse, “Applying Virtue Ethics to Our Treatment of the Other Animals”
    • Watch: lecture video
    • Write: Discussion 4: Virtue Theory & Animals
    • Answer:Quiz 4: Virtue Theory & Animals
  • Thursday: A Relational Approach to Animal Ethics/WebEx Discussion
    • Read: Elizabeth Anderson, “Animal Rights and the Value of Nonhuman Life”
    • Watch: lecture video
    • Write: n/a
    • Answer:Quiz 5: Relational Approaches to Animal Ethics

Week 4: Animal Minds

  • Tuesday: Animal Emotion
    • Read: Frans de Waal, “What is an Animal Emotion?”
    • Watch: Barbara King on “Grief and Love in the Animal Kingdom” & lecture video
    • Write: Discussion 5: Animal Minds
    • Answer:Quiz 6: Animal Minds
  • Thursday: Animal Morality
    • Read: Marc Bekoff and Jessica Pierce, “Wild Justice Redux: What We Know about Social Justice in Animals and Why it Matters”
    • Watch: Frans de Waal, “Moral Behavior in Animals” & lecture video
    • Write: Discussion 6: Animal Morality
    • Answer:Quiz 7: Animal Morality

Week 5: Harming Animals Intentionally (for food)

  • Tuesday: Eating Animals
    • Read: Cheryl (C.E.) Abbate, “Veganism”
    • Watch: “Tour of All Friends Animal Sanctuary” & lecture video
    • Write: Discussion 7: Eating Animals
    • Answer:Quiz 8: Eating Animals
  • Thursday: Eating Animals & WebEx Discussion
    • Read: Jonathan Safran Foer, selections from Eating Animals
    • Watch: “The Emotional World of Farmed Animals”
    • Write: Discussion 8: The Emotional World of Farmed Animals
    • Answer:Quiz 9: The Emotional World of Farmed Animals

Week 6: Harming Animals Intentionally (for food)

  • Tuesday: Meat Eating and Responsibility/WebEx Discussion
    • Read: Alastair Norcross, “Puppies, Pigs, and People”
    • Watch: lecture video
    • Write: Discussion 9: Meat Eaters & Puppy Torturers: An Analogy
    • Answer:n/a
  • Thursday: Meat Eating and Responsibility
    • Read: Cheryl (C.E.). Abbate, “Meat Eating and Moral Responsibility”
    • Watch: Melanie Joy on “Toward Rational, Authentic Food Choices” & lecture video
    • Write: Discussion 10: Meat Eaters and Puppy Torturers: The Distinction
    • Answer:Quiz 10: Meat Eaters and Puppy Torturers: The Distinction

Week 7: Harming Animals Intentionally (for entertainment)

  • Tuesday: Hunting
    • Read: Marti Kheel: “The Killing Game: An Ecofeminist Critique of Hunting”
    • Watch: lecture video
    • Write: Discussion 11: Hunting Animals
    • Answer:Quiz 11: Hunting Animals
  • Thursday: Circuses/WebEx Discussion
    • Read: Iossa, C. Soulsbury and S. Harris, “Are Wild Animals Suited to a Travelling Circus Life?” & Deborah Nelson, “The Cruelest Show on Earth”
    • Watch: Jessica Pierce and Lori Gruen on “The Ethics of Exotic Animals in Captivity” & lecture video
    • Write: Discussion 12: Animals in Circuses
    • Answer:Quiz 12: Animals in Circuses

Week 8: Harming Animals Intentionally (to save human lives)

  • Tuesday: Against Animal Research
    • Read: Gary Francione, “The Use of Nonhuman Animals in Biomedical Research: Necessity and Justification”
    • Watch: “Test Subject” & lecture video
    • Write: n/a
    • Answer:Quiz 13: Against Animal Research
  • Thursday: In Defense of Animal Research/WebEx Discussion
    • Read:  Dario Ringach, “The Use of Nonhuman Animals in Biomedical Research”
    • Watch: lecture video
    • Write: Discussion 13: Animal Research
    • Answer:Quiz 14: In Defense of Animal Research

Week 9: Harming Animals Intentionally (for their own good)

  • Tuesday: Confining Animals
    • Read: Clare Palmer and Peter Sandoe, “For Their Own Good”
    • Watch: lecture video
    • Write: Discussion 14: Confining Cats
    • Answer:Quiz 15: Confining Cats
  • Thursday: Euthanizing Animals/WebEx Discussion
    • Read: Eva Meijer, “The Good Life, the Good Death: Companion Animals and Euthanasia”
    • Watch: lecture video
    • Write: Discussion 15: Killing Animals
    • Answer:Quiz 16: Killing Animals

Week 10: Harming Animals Unintentionally

  • Tuesday: Harming “Wild” Animals Unintentionally
    • Read: Nicolas Delon, “Pervasive Captivity and Urban Wildlife”
    • Watch: lecture video
    • Write: Discussion 16: Harming “Wild” Animals Unintentionally
    • Answer:Quiz 17: Harming “Wild” Animals Unintentionally (Palmer)
  • Thursday: Harming “Wild” Animals Unintentionally/WebEx Discussion
    • Read: Mark Bekoff and Jessica Pierce, “Born to be Wild?” (from The Animals Agenda)
    • Watch: lecture video
    • Write: n/a
    • Answer:Quiz 18: Harming “Wild” Animals Unintentionally (Bekoff & Pierce)

Week 11: Dignitary Harms

  • Tuesday: Denying (the existence of) Animal Indignities
    • Read: Angela Martin, “On Respecting Animals, or Can Animals be Wronged Without Being Harmed?”
    • Watch: lecture video
    • Write: Discussion 17: Dignitary Harms
    • Answer:Quiz 19: Dignitary Harms (Martin)
  • Thursday: Affirming (the existence of) Animal Indignities/WebEx Discussion
    • Read: Cheryl (C.E). Abbate, “Valuing Animals as They Are: Whether They Feel it or Not”
    • Watch: lecture video
    • Write: n/a
    • Answer:Quiz 20: Dignitary Harms (Abbate)

Week 12: Helping Animals

  • Tuesday: Helping Domestic Animals
    • Read: Cheryl (C.E.) Abbate, “How to Help When it Hurts”
    • Watch: lecture video
    • Write: Discussion 18: Helping Domestic Animals
    • Answer:Quiz 21: Helping Domestic Animals
  • Thursday: Helping “Wild” Animals/WebEx Discussion
    • Read: Clare Palmer, “Assisting Wild Animals Vulnerable to Climate Change: Why Ethical Strategies Diverge” & Angie Pepper, “Adapting to Climate Change: What We Owe to Other Animals”
    • Watch: lecture video
    • Write: n/a
    • Answer:Quiz 22: Helping “Wild” Animals

Week 13: Animals & the Law

  • Tuesday: Legal Rights
    • Read:  Charlotte Blattner,”The Recognition of Animal Sentience by the Law”
    • Watch: “Nonhuman Rights Project Aims to Grant Personhood to Animals” & lecture video
    • Write: Discussion 19: Legal Rights
    • Answer:Quiz 23: Legal Rights
  • Thursday: Civil Disobedience/WebEx Discussion
    • Read: Tony Miligan, “Animal Rescue as Civil Disobedience”
    • Watch: “Animal People”
    • Write: Discussion 20: Civil Disobedience & Animals
    • Answer:Quiz 24: Civil Disobedience & Animals

Week 14: Intersectionality (Veganism and Gender)

  • Tuesday: Feminism, Animals, and Intersectionality
    • Read: Carol Adams, “Why Feminist-Vegan Now”  
    • Watch: Corey Wrenn on “What is Intersectionality?” & lecture video
    • Write: Discussion 21: Feminism, Animals, and Intersectionality
    • Answer:Quiz 25: Feminism, Animals, and Intersectionality
  • Thursday: NO CLASS (Thanksgiving Break)

Week 15: Intersectionality (Veganism and Race)

  • Tuesday: Intersectionality (Veganism and Race)/WebEx Discussion
    • Read: Breeze Harper, “Race as a ‘Feeble Matter’ in Veganism: Interrogating Whiteness, Geopolitical Privilege, and Consumption Philosophy of ‘Cruelty-free’ Products”
    • Watch: lecture video
    • Write: Discussion 22: Intersectionality, Veganism, and Race
    • Answer:Quiz 26: Intersectionality, Veganism, and Race
  • Thursday: Course Wrap up/Web-Ex Discussion
    • Read one classmate’s service learning reflection paper (I will assign “partners”) and come to the WebEx meeting prepared to discuss it (with the class and with the partner).

*UNLV policies can be found under the “UNLV Policies” tab. Ensure that you read and understand these policies.

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