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Animals, Ethics and Society

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This module explores and situates non-human animals in human societies.

Beginning with a general introduction to the topic of anthrozoology, or human and non-human animal studies, the course will examine the representation of animals in media and society.

We will investigate and consider how non-human animals are perceived and constructed by humans and the implications of this, including ethical consequences and issues.

Exploring the Cartesian notion of being, the module aims to reveal how human and animal relationships have defined humans, non-human animals and societies, including relationships with ethics, media, food, clothing, pet-ownership, economies and the environment.

Learning and teaching

The module will be delivered through 10 two-hour sessions, made up of lectures, class discussions, small group work and debates. Class sessions will be supplemented by resources available to you via Learning Central.

Topics are likely to include:

  • introduction to the course and human animal studies
  • ‘I think therefore I am’: Descartes, philosophy and animals
  • animals as pets and the shaping of human identities
  • ‘That dingo ate my baby’: animals and the media, exploring the narrative of dangerous dogs
  • animals as food/consumption
  • animals and clothes: fur and anti-fur debate
  • animals and sport: from Crufts to Cheltenham
  • ‘He/she is a working dog’: exploring the construction of animals and work
  • ‘Animals in the wild’: exploring ideas of wildness and what are ‘wild animals’
  • animals and mythology: From Centaurs to Wolverine
  • animal welfare
  • animal and human ethics.

Coursework and assessment

To award credits we need to have evidence of the knowledge and skills you have gained or improved. Some of this has to be in a form that can be shown to external examiners so that we can be absolutely sure that standards are met across all courses and subjects.

The most important element of assessment is that it should enhance your learning. Our methods are designed to increase your confidence and we try very hard to devise ways of assessing you that are enjoyable and suitable for adults with busy lives.

You will complete two assignments: a 500-word reading summary and a 1,300-1,500 word essay.

Reading suggestions

  • Almiron, N., Cole, M. and Freeman, C. (2015). Critical Animal and Media Studies. 1st ed. Routledge.
  • Bradshaw, J. (2017). Animals Among Us: The New Science of Anthrozoology. London: Penguin Books Ltd.
  • Descartes, R. and Moriarty, M. (2008). Meditations on First Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Hurn S (2012). Humans and Other Animals., Pluto Press (UK)
  • Hurn S (2011). Dressing down: Clothing animals, disguising animality. Civilisations, 2(59), 123-138.
  • DeMello (2012). Animals and Society: an introduction to human-animal studies. New York: Columbia University Press
  • Waldau P (2013). Animal Studies: An Introduction. Oxford University Press, USA.

Library and computing facilities

As a student on this course you are entitled to join and use the University’s library and computing facilities. Find out more about using these facilities.


Our aim is access for all. We aim to provide a confidential advice and support service for any student with a long term medical condition, disability or specific learning difficulty. We are able to offer one-to-one advice about disability, pre-enrolment visits, liaison with tutors and co-ordinating lecturers, material in alternative formats, arrangements for accessible courses, assessment arrangements, loan equipment and dyslexia screening.