Animal Law & Science of Animal Minds

Animal Law & Science of the Animal Minds - Professors Frasch, P. Dr. Lahvis, G.

  • Course Number: LAW-929
  • Course Type: Highly Specialized
  • Credits: 2
  • Enrollment Limit: Determined by the Registrar

Description: “Science and Animal Law” offers a two-week intensive learning opportunity that explores what scientists can know of the thoughts and feelings of other animals and how this knowledge might help legal advocates advance those laws and legal arguments relevant to animal psychological and physical well-being.

We will begin by exploring the process of scientific inquiry (objectivity, reductionism, burdens of proof, experiments, weight-of-evidence, etc.), then delve into the evidence for subjective experiences in animals: learning and memory, seeking and enjoyment, pain avoidance and discomfort, curiosity and boredom. To understand these concepts, we will lightly navigate through scientific studies of animal behavior, brain anatomy, and neurophysiology (no science background is required since most of these concepts are simple). With this background, students will learn how to spot an ideology that sounds like science but relegates animals to be no more than predictable and fungible objects, a mindset common in the statutes and regulations relevant to animal welfare, e.g., the Animal Welfare Act, Public Health Service Act, USDA regulations, etc.

Throughout this course, we will consider how a working knowledge of science might impact, or enhance, the management and analysis of common animal law legal issues, including animal confinement, experimentation, agriculture, and poisoning via pollution. We will ask whether science can help answer the question of whether the law should protect all animals – horses and mosquitoes – as if they were the same. We will also explore how different laws protect certain species according to different standards, and whether science can help harmonize those differing standards. Should a beagle used in research get the same legal protections as a beagle used as a companion animal? Along the way, we will also see how common language with different meanings in law and science can lead to confusion. And we will explore how the ethics that might support individual well-being might conflict with the ethics necessary to protect the health of an ecosystem.

  • Prerequisite: none
  • Evaluation Method: Exam
  • Capstone: no
  • WIE: no