UT Course on Animal-Human Welfare Honored

KNOXVILLE — A course on animal-human interaction at the University of Tennessee has received one of three national awards from the Humane Society of the United States.

The interdisciplinary course, “Animal and Human Welfare: Medical, Moral and Social Connections,” will be offered in fall 2001 by a team of three professors from the College of Social Work, the College of Veterinary Medicine and the philosophy department.

“The way humans view animals is inextricably linked to how it chooses to treat them,” said Dr. Andrew Rowan, a senior vice president with the Humane Society U.S. “As more students grapple with these matters, both they and the animals will ultimately benefit.”

The society will give a total of $1,000 to Dr. Catherine Faver, social work, Dr. John New, veterinary medicine, and Dr. John Nolt, philosophy, to develop the course content, Rowan said.

“Because social work takes human welfare as its central concern, I thought I could bring animal welfare into the discourse by emphasizing the connection between animal well-being and human well-being,” said Faver, who initiated plans for the course. “There is a growing body of research focusing on the relationship between animal abuse and interpersonal violence, so it’s not difficult to make the case that caring about people must entail concern for animals as well.”

She said the course will explore the ethical treatment of animals, the benefits and risks of human relationships with companion animals, the connection between animal and human abuse, and the costs and consequences of using animals as resources.

New said he’ll address the reasons people are drawn to animals and the positive and negative effects of such attachments.

“On the positive side, there are physiological and psychological factors,” he said. “On the negative, there are issues of disease transmission and the collecting and hoarding of animals by some humans.”

Faver said the instructors hope to have a national expert visit the campus to speak on the relationship between violence against animals and humans.

The society also honored similar courses at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of British Columbia.

“The society recruited an external panel of experts to select courses that offer a solid academic grounding in animal protection issues,” Rowan said.