Eating Meat in America
That’s the name of the course I’m co-teaching this semester with my colleague, Bob Fischer, who is a philosopher. Here is the official course description:
Animal husbandry has evolved considerably since the English colonization of North America and the founding of the early Republic. As agriculture evolved so did fundamental beliefs about the human-animal relationship. These changes sparked philosophical conversations about the ethics of how humans treat animals—particularly the moral implications of eating them. Today, these questions often rage at a fevered pitch, but the roots of our contemporary discussion about animal welfare and animal rights dates back to the contributions of Charles Darwin and, in some cases, much earlier. We have two aims in this course: first, to tell the story of these changes; second, to begin assessing them. Neither task belongs to a single discipline. This collaborative course is thus rooted in the belief that historians and philosophers can best explore the human-animal narrative when working together. Moreover, it’s based on the conviction that progress in human relations with animals requires both appreciating historical realities and marshaling philosophical creativity.
We’ve had an introductory meeting and it went quite well. There are about 20 students in the class, all very bright (they are in the honors program), and all over the dietary spectrum. For me, this class is such a welcome departure from teaching gut intro courses and even specialized courses on the early American period. How many times can one teach the American Revolution without going a bit crazy?
Here are the required texts:
Anderson, Creatures of Empire: How Domestic Animals Transformed Early America
Beers, For the Prevention of Cruelty: The History and Legacy of Animal Rights
Lee, Meat, Modernity, and the Rise of the Slaughterhouse
Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature
Pachirat, Every Twelve Seconds
Patterson, Eternal Treblinka
Singer, Animal Liberation
It’s my intention to report periodically on the class, highlighting details from what I’m sure will be deeply engaging and quite charged discussions. I may also register my thoughts on the texts as I revisit them. Yes, there are still days I can’t believe I get paid for this. Stay tuned.