Project Background

Engaging consumers, critics and other stakeholders on relevant bioethical issues associated with contemporary animal production, such as impacts on animal welfare, the environment, small farms, social justice, "cheap" food policy and consumer demand is important but intimidating to the animal sciences and industries. Successfully engaging the public on such issues requires more than an understanding of the relevant science; an understanding of ethics is also required. While science addresses the question of what can be done with animals to produce food and fiber, ethics addresses the question of what "ought" to be done. Training of leaders in U.S. animal agriculture to better understand and facilitate resolutions on publicly debated issues pertaining to agricultural animal bioethics is critically needed to adequately prepare young scientists and future animal industry leaders in this important trans-disciplinary subject area.

Because the basis for all our production and processing decisions is our personal and societal ethics, there is a growing need to create curricula that address the ethical foundations of animal welfare. However, few instructors charged with teaching animal welfare (and related subjects) feel sufficiently knowledgeable about animal bioethics to even attempt to address these topics in their courses. In the summer of 2009, a discussion at the annual meeting of NCCC 209 (Agricultural animal bioethics, USDA regional working group) revealed that most of its members, many of whom are also members of NC 1029 (USDA regional working group, Animal Behavior and Welfare) who teach animal welfare and contemporary issues courses were interested in covering bioethics but felt unprepared to competently do so. Thus, there is a shortage of U.S. faculty with training and expertise in both animal welfare and bioethics and few readily accessible mechanisms in place to address their needs and those of their students, especially in regard to bioethics instruction. In light of this, it is essential for its proponents to collaboratively create and disseminate sound, trans-disciplinary curricula in animal bioethics that are consistent in content and delivery across institutions so as to support the goal of promoting and sustaining animal agriculture.

This website and its contents are among the outcomes of a funded USDA Higher Education Challenge grant proposal aimed at addressing the need to develop standardized curriculum, instructional support and resources needed to advance agricultural animal bioethics education.

Funded by: the Higher Education Challenge (HEC) Grants Program