5 Animal Studies Courses at US Colleges (slideshow)


A new semester starts soon at many college campuses and more schools are offering courses in the still-being-defined field of animal studies. Such courses explore the interactions between animals and humans, in recognition that we are not the only species that uses tools, has language and displays, as a recent New York Times articles notes, the “roots of morality.”

That is, animals are no longer being studied strictly within the “province of science,” but from the perspective that “we are a species among other species,” according to Kari Weil, a philosophy professor at Wesleyan University who has written a forthcoming book, “Thinking Animals: Why Animal Studies Now?

Courses in animal studies can be in the academic disciplines of art, literature, sociology, anthropology, film, theater, philosophy or religion.  Animals as food is a popular topic that raises ethical and moral issues, notes Lori Gruen, head of the philosophy department at Wesleyan. As she says, “Given that the way most people interact with animals is when they’re dead and eaten, that [animals as food] becomes a big question.”

The six-year-old Animals and Society Institute — whose webpage says that “there is a link between acts of cruelty to animals and violence toward humans” — lists more than 100 courses in American colleges and universities and around the world that would qualify as animal studies. In conjunction with Wesleyan, the Institute has started a summer fellowship programMichigan State University allows doctoral and master’s students in various academic fields to concentrate in animal studies and New York University started an animal studies initiative this fall, so that undergraduates can minor in animal studies. There is also an academic journal, The Journal for Critical Animal Studies.

Here are five courses in animal studies that are in the course catalogs of US colleges and universities, with descriptions from their respective institutions.



Contemporary Ethical Dilemmas [philosophy course]

Ralph Acampora

Hofstra University

“Do atrocities of slavery, genocide, extreme misogyny, and animal exploitation have anything in common-such as massive scale or institutional structure? If so, (how) does that matter ethically? If not, why are some crossed? Should grave kinds of immorality be analyzed separately, and on what terms?”


Photo by DefensAnimals.org

An Elephant Paints


Interspecies Collaboration [art course]

University of California, Santa Barbara

Lisa Jevbratt

“Interspecies Collaboration is an experimental and experiential class exploring the possibility of making art projects together with animals. The focus of the class is on  finding, communicating and working together with other species. The projects can be  manifested in a wide range of media and genres, they can be performative, visual,  conceptual etc. They should make us aware of, and facilitate, an intellectual, emotional and spiritual partnership with the species around us.”


Photo by acaben

Video uploaded by sainamthip

Monkey God Hanuman temple Delhi


Animals and Religion

Harvard University Divinity School

Kimberley Patton

“Focuses on the symbolism and ritual function of animals in human religious worlds. Using particular cultural histories as paradigms, considers themes such a cosmogony, hierarchy, magic, metamorphosis, antinomianism, prophecy, mimesis, hunting, sacrifice, and the role of fantastic creatures. Central to the course is the evaluation of developmentalist and other theoretical models and their impact on the history of religion.”


Photo of the Hindu monkey god Hanuman in Delhi by amanderson2

Gulliver u Hvajninimů - Grandville


Humans and other Animals [English/literature course]

Willamette University

Tobias Menely

“We will investigate the ways writers have shepherded readers into an animal world-the perspective of a fish or dog or elephant-and, in doing so, have crossed a boundary that Western philosophy has worked assiduously to maintain. We will also analyze moments when human beings find their sense of what it means to be human troubled by encounters with other animals, be it Gulliver among the Houyhnhnms or [late French philosopher] Jacques Derrida, naked and feeling the shame of being stared at by his pet pussycat. Throughout the class, we will attend to the ethical, social, and representational questions raised by conscious, communicative animals.”



Image of Gulliver and the Houyhnhnms from Wikimedia Commons

Photo of cat staring by Phaneesh N

the controversial trainer, knut & the insane crowd

The Psychology of Human-Animal Interaction

University of Central Florida

Matthew Chin

“This course introduces students to many types of human-animal interaction including “pet adoption,” “animals and our health,” “animal training,” “animal abuse,” “animal consumption” and “wild animals and zoos.” Several guest speakers provide “question-and-answer” sessions about animal training, working with wild animals and animals in zoos, and shelter work. Students also complete two projects for which they must collect empirical data about how humans verbally interact with animals and views of vegetarianism.”


Photo of Knut the polar bear, his trainer, Thomas Dörflein, and many visitors by nayrb7

Mother and child

I’m teaching an archaeology course at my college this semester and will be showing my students this photo I took last March while visiting the archaeological museum in Dion in northern Greece. The photo shows a grave stele (grave marker) for a child who died. The child’s grieving mother is depicted holding onto her child who, as he slips away, feeds a last piece of grain to his rooster. In remembering their child, his parents made sure to include his beloved pet: The bond between humans and animals has long existed and long been thought important enough to note and preserve.


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Photo by tillwe


Mary G.
Mary G.3 years ago

I think that children should be taught how to treat animals from their first steps. If parents did this, they should know about it from teachers at school, kindergartens will be better. Four-footed animals are our brothers, they cannot stand up for their selves without our help. Everyone should bare it in mind. I think that every student should prepare the essay or any paper work about it, written on his own but not with the help of professional essays writing company. Everyone can order it online, even the dumb one. But it should state your own opinion not anyone else's.

Julia Tawyea'
Julia Tawyea'6 years ago

Many students adopt dogs and cats during a semester, only to abandon them once they go home for the holidays or the summer at many colleges.. From kindergarden children need to be taught at school to treat animals with love and kindness and not to harm or murder them..

Margie B.
Past Member 6 years ago

Very Interesting

Sarah M.
Sarah M6 years ago

Cool, really interesting.

Maree Ann P.

I would love to do a course about animals, that would be so cool!

Carrie Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :) i live in the UK and we also have many University courses that are very similar i'm in my 1st year of Uni studying applied behavioural science and animal welfare :)

Muriel Servaege
Muriel Servaege6 years ago

Amazing! Beautiful!

Dijana D.
Dijana D6 years ago

I took an animal rights class in my college, we learned some very eye opening information, i loved it and i hope more colleges start offering such classes

Jessica J.
Jessica J6 years ago

what a great list to make known to people, and I wish the courses could be done online ;-)

Nancy L.
Nancy L6 years ago

Sounds great!!