Animal ethics and animal behavioral science — bridging the gap

The moral status of animals is an important emerging topic for society, one that is leading to significant changes at academic, political, and legal levels in both wealthy and developing nations. However, some fields, such as animal behavioral science, have remained relatively aloof, despite producing evidence that is deeply enmeshed in animal ethics arguments.

Writing in the journal


, an interdisciplinary group of scholars urges animal behavior scientists to position themselves more actively in the growing ethical conversation. The authors maintain that a greater integration between animal ethics and behavior communities will be valuable for both ethical and pragmatic reasons.

Coauthor Christine Webb, an animal behavior scientist at Harvard University, explains that “while it is commonplace for animal behavior scientists to emphasize the conservation implications of their work, other broader impacts related to the moral standing of animals are emphasized relatively less in their public outreach. However, scientists have a social responsibility to proactively engage with the ethical debates that are informed by their evidence.” To highlight how such engagement may benefit ethical theory and practice, coauthor Peter Woodford, an assistant professor of religion, science, and philosophy at Union College, said, “Greater scientific understanding of animals has and undeniably will continue to raise some of the most important questions for us today regarding the scope and nature of morality.” Coauthor Elise Huchard, a behavioral ecologist at the University of Montpellier/CNRS adds that more integration between science and philosophy in turn “may encourage scientists to embark on new research about the nature of animal minds, question the anthropocentric legacy of behavioral studies, and enrich other aspects of their scientific practices through a more careful consideration of animal interests and subjectivity.”



, published monthly by Oxford Journals, is the journal of the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS).


is a forum for integrating the life sciences that publishes commentary and peer-reviewed articles. The journal has been published since 1964. AIBS is an organization for professional scientific societies and organizations, and individuals, involved with biology. AIBS provides decision-makers with high-quality, vetted information for the advancement of biology and society. Follow


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Oxford Journals is a division of Oxford University Press. Oxford Journals publishes well over 300 academic and research journals covering a broad range of subject areas, two-thirds of which are published in collaboration with learned societies and other international organizations. The division been publishing journals for more than a century, and as part of the world’s oldest and largest university press, has more than 500 years of publishing expertise behind it. Follow Oxford Journals on Twitter


This part of information is sourced from

James M Verdier

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