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Animals and Society Syllabi

Dr. David Nibert

Animals and Society

SOC 210
Spring Semester 2000

Department of Sociology
Wittenberg University


The relationship between humans and other animals has received both popular and scholarly attention over the past two decades. Philosophers, feminists, psychologists, anthropologists and sociologists are examining these relationships.

Historical and cross-cultural studies reveal that humans are not consistent in our perceptions of, or relations with, other animals, suggesting that socially constructed realities extend into human-animal relations. For thousands of years, various other animals have figured prominently in both the material foundations and the ideological underpinnings of human societies.

Increasingly, social scientists are focusing on the ethical, ecological and societal consequences of continuing these patterns into the 21st century. For example, some scholars argue that cultural practices that define and use of other animals as food figure prominently into various forms of human rights abuses and environmental devastation. In addition, health research indicates that high rates of heart disease and cancer in many cultures, with the attendant economic and social consequences, can be attributed to the consumption of animals. Others suggest that human perception and treatment of other animals are related in significant ways to such enduring problems as racism, sexism and violence against vulnerable groups of people.

Such issues, of both scholarly and practical importance, constitute a rich and meaningful topic of study for Wittenberg students.

Required Texts

Animal Rights/Human Rights: Entanglements of Oppression and Liberation [Draft] by David Nibert, Rowman & Littlefield, 2002.

Animal Liberation (Revised Edition) by Peter Singer, New York: Avon Books, 1990.

Beyond Beef: The Rise and Fall of the Cattle Culture by Jeremy Rifkin, New York: Plume Books, 1992.

Slaughterhouse: Greed, Neglect and Inhumane Treatment Inside the U.S. Meat Industry by Gail A. Eisnitz, Prometheus Books, 1997.

Course Requirements

Students are expected to be actively involved in discussing and presenting the course material. Students will co-facilitate class sessions. Groups of students will be assigned text readings for summation and elaboration during the quarter. Discussion will be a significant component of each session. Thus, it is essential that assigned readings are completed and students come to class prepared to participate. Lively and interesting exchanges will result.

There will be twelve unannounced quizzes, a class presentation and a paper. The quizzes will be objective and short answer.

The final grade will be computed as follows.

Quizzes                         120 points

Presentation                   50

Paper                            100

Total Possible Points: 270 points



In the paper the student will be challenged to demonstrate an understanding of the neo-Marxist theoretical approach to humans’ treatment of other animals developed during the course. Material motivations for the oppression of other animals and ideological and political rationales and supports should be developed around a form of exploitation of other animals selected by each student. The paper should be roughly 15 pages in length, and an early draft of the paper will be presented in class for discussion and feedback.

Preliminary Course Schedule

Readings are assigned on the dates on which they appear and are to be completed by the next class session. This schedule, and anything on the syllabus, is subject to change based upon class progress. Any changes will be announced and discussed in class.


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