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Objectives

  • The major goal of this course is to develop each student’s ability to notice and take seriously the many diverse relationships among people, veterinarians, and other animals.
  • Identify some of the most basic issues and debates in veterinary medicine, including issues in veterinary education, the veterinary profession, and public health. Students should be able to relate these issues to these distinct categories of nonhuman animals: (1) wildlife; (2) companion animals; (3) research animals; and (4) farmed or food animals.
  • Describe trends, changes and “ferment” in social values regarding nonhuman animals.
  • Compare and contrast roles of veterinarian as individual practitioner, as participant in veterinary education, and as member of the veterinary profession.
  • Recognize the value of developing a “culture of discussion,” that is, a community that promotes open inquiry, respect for empirical realities and the importance of evidence based medicine, and the possibility of human achievement through a combination of careful inquiry (science) and concern for others (ethics).

1. Background Information and Dedication

The course was inaugurated by Dr. Elizabeth Lawrence, a veterinarian and an anthropologist who was a pioneer in the field of human-animal relations. When she proposed this course in the 1980s to the school's first dean, Dr. Albert Jonas, Dr. Lawrence made these insightful observations:

Veterinarians will benefit greatly and be better able to serve in their professional role by having worked out in their own minds certain philosophical questions that have practical application in veterinary medicine. By having a course which includes consideration of human-animal relationships in their curriculum they can come to grips with such questions as how do animals differ from people, what are the boundaries that separate animals from human beings, and what is, or should be the status of animals in regard to human life and concerns.

Dr. Lawrence died in November of 2003, and this course is dedicated to her memory and the remarkable contributions she made during her long, fruitful life to veterinary education and our understanding of humans' relationships with other animals.

2. General Information

This course is designed to enrich the student's understanding of various aspects of our individual and communal relationships with "animals" (or, to use scientific terminology, "other animals"), and to stimulate creative thinking about the expanding horizons of veterinary medicine, particularly those relevant to both traditional and newer forms of human-animal interaction. Class sessions, which include a major allocation of time for student participation, touch on a wide range of issues affecting companion animals, wildlife, farmed animals, research animals, public health, law, social and cultural values regarding nonhuman individuals and communities, and various forms of the human-animal bond. Emphasis is placed on prompting each student to think about and discuss the broader issues of veterinary medicine, such as the role(s) of the individual veterinarian, veterinary education, and the veterinary profession. The goal of the course, then, is to develop each student's ability to notice and take seriously the many diverse relationships among people, veterinarians, and other animals.

In the eleven two-hour sessions of this course we will look at a wide range of topics-- current science, contemporary debates, ethics, law, practical issues, and much more. In contemporary discussions both within and without veterinary medicine, these issues are talked about together. They are, thus, characteristically thoroughly interwoven with each other in very complex ways. Our task in this course and throughout the other courses in the Ethics and Values Signature Program is to untangle the issues sufficiently to see each on its own merits. This will help you distinguish the scientific issues from the political issues, and then again each of those from the ethical, practical, legal, and other issues in any problem you encounter.

These eleven lectures are specifically designed for first-year students, and in particular to enrich your understanding of various aspects of human-animal relations. The deeper goal, as it were, is to stimulate thinking about some of the expanding horizons in veterinary medicine that involve changing perceptions of human-animal interactions.

Throughout the course, then, we will place emphasis on helping students

  • appreciate the all-important social and cultural contexts that affect the practice of veterinary medicine,
  • understand the range of values that they will encounter in their future careers,
  • perceive the impact of both tradition and popular culture on attitudes toward the living beings around us, and
  • think about the place and role of personal ethics, social ethics, professional ethics, and the broader social and policy discussions now taking place.

If each of us sees human-animal relationships better, and in particular if we can successfully talk together about the myriad issues in this burgeoning field, all of us can see further than we can on our own. And, importantly, we can see better how these issues are impacting today's and tomorrow's practice of veterinary medicine.

2.1. General Learning Objectives

When the course is completed, students should be able to:

  • Identify some of the most basic issues and debates in veterinary medicine, including issues in veterinary education, the veterinary profession, and public health. Students should be able to relate these issues to these distinct categories of nonhuman animals: (1) wildlife; (2) companion animals; (3) research animals; and (4) farmed or food animals.
  • Describe trends, changes and "ferment" in social values regarding nonhuman animals.
  • Compare and contrast roles of veterinarian as individual practitioner, as participant in veterinary education, and as member of the veterinary profession.
  • Recognize the value of developing a "culture of discussion," that is, a community that promotes open inquiry, respect for empirical realities and the importance of evidence-based medicine, and the possibility of human achievement through a combination of careful inquiry (science) and concern for others (ethics).

2.2. Specific Learning Objectives

When the course is completed, students should be able to:

  • Compare and contrast the categories of the 6 boxes diagram
  • Describe the most significant ethical issues involved in euthanasia
  • Describe what is meant by "evidence-based medicine" and why this notion is so important to both science and ethics
  • Recognize that researchers are producing more and more information about links between mistreatment of humans and cruelty to nonhuman animals
  • Grasp the importance of the debates over research and the search for alternatives to use of whole animals
  • Know the meaning of the term "conservation medicine"
  • Recognize the roles veterinarians can play with local shelters and in shelter medicine generally
  • Recognize the increasing importance of veterinarians in the field of public health

3. Course Requirements

  1. Participation is required. "Participation" in this course has multiple components, weighted equally:
    1. Attendance is mandatory, and there will be no unexcused absences. You must sign your name (initials are not acceptable) on the sign-up sheet passed around each session. It will be considered a breach of the student code of Ethical Practices and Professional Conduct to sign another student's name. In the event of illness or family emergency, the student affairs office should be contacted in advance.
    2. Involvement in group discussions--the group assignments, are based on your Problem Based Learning (PBL) groups (each of the discussion groups is composed of two PBL discussion groups).
    3. Passing grades on "minutes papers" and quizzes (described below) are required--these reflect your participation/preparation by doing course work and reading.
    4. Fulfillment of the journal requirement that is described below.
  2. Course Readings. All required materials are in the Materials Syllabus. Recommended materials are, from time to time, put on reserve in the library. Assigned readings, the length of which varies from lecture to lecture, are intended to supplement but not duplicate the lectures--some will be useful references for your future studies and practice. All materials can be the subject of questions during class discussions.
  3. Minutes Papers and Quizzes. "Minutes papers" are written exercises handed out in class that can be answered in one or, at most, a few minutes--hence "minutes papers." They are designed to test your comprehension of basic concepts on which the course is built. Quizzes will be used from time to time as well for the same purpose. These quizzes are taken on-line, and can be taken during a designated time. We'll make sure that the designated time window is practical for all students. Because these reflect your preparation or review of course materials, passing these "minutes papers" and quizzes are deemed part of your participation.
  4. Completion of each of the Reflection Journal assignments set out in this syllabus or during class sessions. Reflection Journal assignments typically have two components--(a) your reflection on a specific issue discussed in one of the previously assigned readings or in class during the prior session (we call this the "Looking Back" assignment), and (b) your reflection on a particular issue raised in the assigned reading for the current session (the "Looking Forward" assignment). The issues about which you will write are explained in the materials below for each session of the course. The goal of these Reflection Journal assignments is to push you to express in writing your personal opinion of the specified subjects.
    1. Note: These "reflections" should be no less than a half-page and no more than a page and a half.
    2. Note: Each component must be turned in at the beginning of the class session on which it is due.

4. Grading

  • There will be no formal examination at the end of the course.
  • The course is graded on a Pass/Fail basis.
  • Whether a student passes the course is determined by that student's completion of each of the mandatory requirements 1-4 listed above.

5. Class Discussions

This course best meets its educational goals for all concerned when there is broad participation in discussions, thus, in recent years the faculty has, in response to student requests, increasingly emphasized student discussions. This tradition of wide-ranging, vibrant discussion is one of the most important components in the Ethics and Values Signature Program.

We also strive to develop some important "in house" rules or traditions in this course--as a matter of personal responsibility to the community and subject matter, not to mention politeness to our speakers, many of whom are outside guests, students may not use this all-important discussion time as "prep" or "reading time" for other courses. Faculty enforce this rule because the subject matter and goals of the course--and in particular the development of Tufts' students social and ethical awareness--are equal in importance to that of other foundational courses in veterinary school, such as anatomy or physiological chemistry.

To provide adequate time in those sessions that do not involve a panel discussion and which are not scheduled for smaller group discussions, we ask speakers to stop the didactic portion of the lecture at the end of the first hour, and to then lead the class in discussion for the second hour of each session.

As noted below, it is a "cultural value" here at TCSVM that during discussions, all viewpoints are welcome. That said, please recognize that discussion is a challenge in a class of this size. On some issues, we break the class up into small groups. We may after such group discussions reconvene the class as a whole to discuss the questions raised in these smaller group discussions.

Here are a few more details, as well as some observations on our efforts to create a "culture" that enhances discussion and learning:

  • Individual class sessions use various techniques, including lecture format, class-wide discussion, and, from time to time, smaller group discussions.
  • Because each student is strongly encouraged in this course to articulate her or his views of the subjects discussed, you should always feel free to ask questions.
  • There are some important skills that each course in the Ethics and Values Signature Program is designed to reinforce (no doubt, most of you already have these skills in some high degree).
    • Each student is expected to handle in a respectful manner the opinions expressed and questions asked by others.
    • It has been said that to be educated is to know how to understand, experience, and respect difference. If this needs to be true in any course, it needs to be true in an ethics and values program dealing with human and nonhuman animals.
    • Further, the skill of listening carefully to others' questions, answers, and analyses can be enhanced with practice.

If you don't presently possess these skills at a high level, recognize that these important talents can be acquired and then enhanced dramatically with practice. We strive hard and in many ways to make good discussion a reality at TCSVM. Recognize now that you are clearly going to need these communication skills in order to have a successful, happy career as a veterinarian.