Animal Studies Bibliography

Plous, S. 1993. The Role of Animals in Human Society. Journal of Social Issues , 49 (1): 1-10.

Although many scholars reject the topic of animal rights as unimportant or as insulting to their disciplines, Plous argues that animals are central to nearly every aspect of human life and that open debate about these issues is therefore crucial. Plous outlines five areas in which animals impact human life: they are central to our emotional lives as companions; animal raising forms a significant part of national and international economies; animal industries are a major cause of environmental destruction (topsoil erosion, deforestation, etc.); animals are a major portion of American diets and a major cause of many health problems including heart disease and cancer; and the use of animals for our own gain presents moral issues about animal rights and justice in general.

Plous also offers two typologies to describe the contents of this special issue on animals and human society. First, he argues that the myriad uses to which human societies put animals can be placed into four categories: animals used for food and clothing, animals used for research and education, animals used for companionship, and animals used for recreation (3). Alternatively, he describes the articles included as representing three groups: human-animal relations; animal rights and animal research; and companion animals.

Plous finds that three general themes appear in all the articles in the journal. The first theme is the tension between animals as property and animals as individuals in their own right (6). Plous points out that we tend to consider certain animals as individuals (e.g. house pets) and other animals (e.g. those we use for food) as interchangeable, replaceable property (7). Second, industrialized nations tend to understand animals based a hierarchy of value through which we determine which animals get which privileges. This hierarchy, for example, means that a species' overpopulation may be treated very differently according to its place in the hierarchy (for example, whether it will be subjected to recreational hunting as population control). Third, attitudes toward animals are changing. A decrease in utilitarian (7) views toward animals is evidenced by increasing regulation of animal treatment, increased attention among scholars and professional associations toward ethical questions regarding animal use, and the large animal rights movement.


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