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BITC202 Animal Ethics

Overview of the paper

All of us interact with animals. We keep animals as pets, farm animals, or eat them, feed seagulls at the beach, hunt or fish, poison or trap possums, rats or mice, see them at the zoo or in the wild, or use animals in research. We protect and provide for animals, and we harm them. Sometimes, they can harm us. 

We need to understand animals, and any obligations we have to them, if we want to do the right thing by them in our lives. This means understanding what is good and bad for them, and how much this matters for the choices we make. These can be day-to-day choices we might make, such as letting your cat roam free or keeping her indoors, or larger choices, such as what career we pursue, and how we treat animals in it.

Animal ethics provides a comprehensive introduction to how animals matter ethically, ways of understanding our obligations to them, and what this means for the main ways we use and relate to animals. This covers important basics like whether we have any obligations to animals, how bad death is for an animal, and whether killing them is wrong. It also includes practical issues such as farming, use of animals in research and teaching, keeping them as pets or in zoos, and how to represent animals in our political arrangements.

Animal Ethics does not assume any background knowledge about ethics or science, but offers scope for those who do have this to extend their understanding. This paper is ideal for 200- and 300-level students from all academic backgrounds, who are interested in learning about and thinking more about the ethics of our treatment of animals.

  • Assessment: 15% essay 1, 35% essay 2, 50% final exam

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Student testimonials

As a science student I was apprehensive about taking an animal ethics paper as it is an area of ethics, I knew made me uncomfortable at times. BITC202 was anything but uncomfortable, I found it to be an interesting and enjoyable paper. There are a wide range of ways that we relate to animals and it does a very good job covering these. While the focus is on animal ethics, the skills and ethical theories covered provide a strong basis for use in other areas.

I really enjoyed the format of this paper as it is easy to fit into a busy timetable and has really good tutorials. In this part of the course hearing the views of others allows you to consider things you may not have on your own. It is not a paper where you need to sit down and memorise boring content. Instead talking with classmates is one of the most effective ways of studying.

There is a good deal of support from the staff, but it is also a paper where you are encouraged to think for yourself. I would highly recommend this paper to anyone who has any interest in animals regardless of your background. It does not need any prior knowledge and I feel that having taken this paper I have a much better understanding of my own views and opposing views surrounding animals

– Alysha McKeeman, BITC 201 student in 2018

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An introduction to ethical theories as they apply to non-human animals and applied ethical questions arising from animal use.

We all interact with non-human animals, and our actions can affect their lives in good and bad ways. In this paper you will learn and think about the nature and value of animal life. You will then consider what these mean for how we should treat animals in a range of ways we make use of or interact with animals. These include farming and eating animals, use of animals in research, treatment of wild animals and keeping animals as companions, and in zoos.This paper will be of particular value for students who are intending to work with animals, work to improve their lives or simply wish to think about what ethical treatment of animals might involve.

Paper title Animal Ethics
Paper code BITC202
Subject Bioethics
EFTS 0.15
Points 18 points
Teaching period First Semester (On campus)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $913.95
International Tuition Fees (NZD) $5,314.50

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126 points
Schedule C
Arts and Music, Commerce, Science
Suitable for all students who have completed a year of full-time tertiary study. No previous scientific or philosophical knowledge is assumed.
Teaching staff
Lecturer and co-ordinator: Dr Mike King (Bioethics Centre, Division of Health Sciences)

Lecturer: Associate Professor Andrew Moore (Department of Philosophy, Division of Humanities)
Teaching Arrangements
This paper is co-taught by the Bioethics Centre and the Department of Philosophy.
Garner, Robert. 2005. Animal Ethics. Cambridge: Polity.
Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Communication, Critical thinking, Cultural understanding, Ethics, Information literacy, Research, Interdisciplinarity.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes

Students who successfully complete this paper will

  1. Be adept at thinking critically about ethical issues affecting animals and be able to develop, critically assess, and present ethical arguments relating to animals
  2. Be able to communicate information, arguments and analyses relating to animal ethics effectively
  3. Be adept at effectively locating, retrieving, evaluating and using research and information from a range of disciplines relating to animal ethics
  4. Be aware of the cultural context of animal care and use and be able to identify and understand relevant ethical values within Te Ao Māori
  5. Understand major theories in animal ethics and their normative implications
  6. Understand the relationship between animal ethics and animal treatment in a range of contexts

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First Semester

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system


Stream Days Times Weeks
A1 Tuesday 13:00-13:50 9-13, 15-21
Wednesday 08:00-09:50 9-13, 15-21