Animals in Society

Course content

This course focuses on the role of animals in society. Relations to animals are complex – animals are not ‘just out there in Nature’. Animals are used in food production to the benefit of man and serve as research animals in the medical sector. Moreover, animals are used in nature preservation, as companion animals and in competitive sports, but they also serve as prey for anglers and hunters. Often, these different relations to animals cause conflicts over how or indeed if we should use animals and thus highlight how different stakeholders represent different interests. The course will explore the economic and sociological aspects of such relations between humans and animals.

Sociology of animals in society

This element concerns sociological aspects of the use of animals. Departing in salient issues where conflicts over the use of animals can be observed, it will be discussed how different societal actors (including e.g. farmers, consumers, citizens, vegans, vivisectionists, etc.) view and legitimize the use of animals for different purposes - and the values these different perspectives represent. During the lectures and exercises the students will be presented to a number of sociological concepts and theories that can be used to describe and understand human uses of animals. All in all this will offer insights in the importance of different sociodemographic, cultural, religious and historical background factors, that can be used in the study of disagreements over animal uses.

Economics of animals in society

Can we leave it to consumers’ demand to secure animal welfare? Which methods can be used to elicit the economic value of the use of animals? These and other questions related to the economic aspects of using animals are discussed in the course. We introduce economic aspects of the use of animals focusing on how different perceptions of animal welfare can be included in economic analyses. The point of departure is a discussion of how the keeping of animals can be analysed in consumers’ utility maximizing and/or producers’ profit maximizing framework. Using the concept of market failure, economic arguments for regulating animal welfare are presented and discussed.

Learning outcome

The overall objective of the course is to introduce the students to societal aspects of the keeping and use of animals. This includes in particular economic and sociological aspects. After completion of the course it is expected that the student has achieved the following qualifications:


- Can demonstrate a basic understanding of the different roles of animals in society and societal controversies over different uses of animals

- Can characterize different stakeholders’ perceptions of animals and animal uses

- Can demonstrate a basic understanding of economic concepts of importance for analysing and describing economic aspects of animals for the individual stakeholders and for society.

- Can characterize the economic importance of different uses of animals


- Will be able to carry out an analysis of economic aspects of different uses of animals on individual and societal levels.

- Will be able to analyse different stakeholders’ perceptions of the use of animals using sociological concepts


- Can reflect over societal and economic issues related to concrete cases where animals are used and discuss these from the point of view of different stakeholders.

- Can use the acquired knowledge and skills as a basis for discussion of conflicts over the use of animals and suggest possible societal robust solutions.

Teaching is organized as lectures and exercises introducing and training the various core elements of the course. Alongside the lectures, students will carry out a project, combining sociological and economic aspects of a specific case of animal use.

Will be announced on Absalon.

No sociological or economic skills are required. The target group is students working with veterinary, technical or other natural science aspects of the use of animals.

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination, 20 minutes
All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Internal examiner
Criteria for exam assessment

In order to obtain the highest grade (12), the student should be able to demonstrate the achievement of the knowledge, skills and competences listed in the in the section 'Learning Outcome' above.

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 28
  • Theory exercises
  • 8
  • Preparation
  • 66
  • Project work
  • 103
  • Exam
  • 1
  • English
  • 206