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Ethical Treatment of Animals (July 2015): Special Topics and Conclusion

By Walter Hogan and Eric Owen

Special Topics

As is evident in this essay, most of the books concerned with particular kinds of animal mistreatment can be grouped by the setting involved, such as research laboratories or factory farms.  However, this final section presents some books on special topics that follow their theme across boundaries.  Claire Molloy’s Popular Media and Animals, for instance, examines depictions of animals in advertising, news, and entertainment media.  Molloy finds that television usually portrays animal rights advocates as misguided or evil terrorists.  She examines media representation of animal performers, tourism geared to wild animal encounters, hunting, laboratory experimentation, and the marketing of “happy animal products.”

Arguments about Animal Ethics, edited by Greg Goodale and Jason Edward Black, is a collection of ten essays analyzing the rhetoric on both sides of animal ethics arguments and controversies, including nonverbal rhetoric, such as the nude protest organized by PETA.  Tactics and unacknowledged influences are also interpreted.  Most of the contributors are from communications, English, or other academic homes of rhetoric studies.  Killing Animals by the Animal Studies Group is a collection of essays by humanities scholars concerning the numerous settings in which humans kill animals, e.g., hunting, slaughter for food, and euthanasia in shelters, as well as the death of animals as depicted in literature and art.  The essays were conceived as a group project and comment on one another.

Animals and War presents several essays edited by peace studies scholars Colin Salter, Anthony Nocella, and Judy Bentley, examining military uses of animals and the effects of war on animal bystanders.  The contributors see the military industry as comparable to agribusiness in being a malign manifestation of industrial capitalism that routinely exploits both humans and animals.  Like social scientists in several other fields, these scholars want to extend their discipline to include concern for animals as well as humans.  Jacky Turner’s Animal Breeding, Welfare and Society examines the breeding of animals in several domains that usually are studied separately.  Designer breeds of companion animals, livestock manipulated to suit factory-farming preferences, racing dogs and horses, service and working animals, and small animals selectively bred for laboratory research are each reviewed.  The common denominator is that many of these designer breeds are short-lived, unhealthy, and even grotesque creations.  In addition, many surplus animals are destroyed by breeders.  Although these practices generally are legal, Turner makes a strong case that they involve ethical problems that are in need of societal attention.  Animals and Public Health, by Aysha Akhtar, argues that some of the ways animals are being used today threaten the health of the human species.  Excessive meat consumption, and the factory farming that supports it, threatens environmental health by polluting land, waterways, and the atmosphere.  Avian flu and other animal-based pathogens are generated by sick animals in CAFOs, and in wildlife markets populated by roughly handled animals with compromised immune systems.  Thus, some animal welfare considerations may be fundamental to human health.


During early 2015, when this essay was submitted, animal ethics topics were on the front page of The New York Times almost daily, with the horrific report on abuses at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center in Nebraska provoking an enormous outcry.[1]  Concerns about the way humans treat animals will only continue to grow, as will the literature of animal ethics.  The 1995 and 2005 essays that preceded this one feature books that should continue to prove useful.  Together, these three essays should be valuable to libraries supporting collections in philosophy, psychology, public policy, and interdisciplinary fields such as animal studies.

[1] Michael Moss, “U.S. Research Lab Lets Livestock Suffer in Quest for Profit,” The New York Times (January 20, 2015): A1. 

Works Cited