The University of Redlands in southern California is now offering an undergraduate minor in Human-Animal Studies. I was happy to see Kathie Jenni — the brains behind this program — quoted in the Press Enterprise as saying, “Human-animal studies is where women’s studies were 40 years ago and ethnic studies were 30 years ago.”
Exactly. Our relationship to animals is one of the most fundamental parts of who we are, both in the present (from our relationship to our companion animals to the industrial uses and abuses to our continuing destruction of ever-dwindling wildlife) and throughout history (the way humans’ relationships with animals have shaped our civilization). The key way to get this imperative relationship recognized by society, and to start better protecting our animal victims, is to start with academia.
Unfortunately, as animal issues reach the mainstream, they are likely to be influenced by calls for “balance” and attacks that they are more advocacy than academia. For example, regarding the new minor at the University of Redlands, which otherwise sounds amazing, the Press Enterprise article also notes, “Their studies can lead to careers in veterinary science, animal rehabilitation, even animal research and experimentation.”
Let’s hope that these programs draw enough students who want to protect animals, not exploit them, and that the forces of darkness will have no chance to undermine their value.
As always, for more information on animals in academia, and on human-animal studies specifically, visit Animals & Society Institute.