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. The economic aspects of these relations between humans and animals are important for society.  In addition, the uses cause conflicts over how or indeed if we should use animals and thus highlight how different stakeholders represent different interests. It is within this field, the course will explore three aspects of the human uses of animals:

Animals and 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.
What are the economic considerations involved in running a zoo? Why is it so difficult to increase market share for pork from loose sows? What is the difference between measuring animal preferences and human preferences? Do animal preferences count in cost benefit analyses? These and other questions related to the economic aspects of using animals are discussed in AiS. 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 - and the level of welfare these animals experience - can be analysed in a utility maximizing and/or profit maximizing framework. The costs and benefits of animal welfare are discussed taking the position of different stakeholders. Using the concept of market failure, economic arguments for regulating animal welfare are presented and discussed.

Legal aspects of animal use.
This element focuses on the regulatory aspects of keeping and using animals and what an animal is, seen from a legal point of view. We will zoom in on different regulatory levels (international, EU and national) and discuss various regulatory instruments. A range of instruments (law, economic incentives, moral incentives, information) are introduced, and pros and cons of each type of regulatory instruments are 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 analyzing and describing economic aspects of animals for society.
- Can characterize the economic importance of different uses of animals
- Have a basic understanding of legal principles used in regulation of different uses of animals.

- Will be able to carry out an analysis of economic and societal aspects of different uses of animals on a societal level.
- Can analyze and discuss the trade-off between market and non-market aspects of uses of animals
- Will be able to analyze different stakeholders perceptions of the use of animals

- 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

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