Professors offer new course on the ethics of eating animals

Headshots of Professors Liza Oliver and Julie Walsh.
Author  Cheryl Minde ’24
Published on 

In all the debates about the impact humans have on the environment, Liza Oliver, associate professor of art at Wellesley, and Julie Walsh, associate professor of philosophy, say one question is often overlooked: “Do we need to reevaluate our relationship to animals as food?”

In fall 2024, they will address that question and more in ARTH 324/PHIL 324: Meat: Visuals, Politics, and Ethics, a new seminar they are co-teaching with the goal of discussing and debating meat consumption and the meat industry.

The course is made possible by an Apgar Award, given by the College’s Educational Research and Development Committee. Endowed in 1991 by Anne Nelson Apgar ’70, the award recognizes faculty initiatives that enhance the quality of teaching at Wellesley. It provides up to $10,000, once a year, to faculty members who present new and innovative approaches to teaching and broaden the College’s views on teaching and learning. The grant encourages faculty to propose a “dream project” that would allow students and faculty to engage with topics they love in creative ways.

Anne Apgar ’70
Anne Apgar ’70

The Apgar Award is about thinking big, and Oliver and Walsh have big dreams for their seminar, which they say “gives priority to interdisciplinarity, fostering exchange, and learning from one another in real time.” They want to empower their students by making class discussions student-driven, and they are planning to take ambitious field trips as well as host a series of guest speakers from a variety of disciplines: journalism, digital media consulting, activism, and visual art. In bringing together diverse perspectives and career experiences, they hope to “integrate the academic, traditional pedagogies of art history and philosophy with the conversations, concerns, ethics, and politics of people working and living in these spaces now.”

The professors look forward to engaging with their students on the topic of eating animals, and they will be pairing academic reading and conversation with experiential learning opportunities.

For Oliver and Walsh, their “goal is to equip students with frameworks and contexts within which to interrogate the ways that animals are seen, considered, and valued in our communities.”