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Animals and Global Issues
APBI 414
Instructor: David Fraser
Office Hours:
Class Schedule:
Important Course Pages
Lecture Notes
Course Discussion

Course Description

Students will develop skills in integrating and presenting information from different fields to understand global animal issues, such as the role of animal products in human health, environmental impacts of livestock production, trade in exotic animals, reasons for emerging animal diseases, and others. Writing, discussion, and oral presentations are required.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this course, students will:

  1. Develop skills in investigating complex issues through innovative and critical use of available data sources and the scientific literature, and by synthesizing information of different types and from different sources.
  2. Develop skills in expository writing and oral communication in discussion format.
  3. Develop an appreciation of the complex global interactions between people and animals that occur through such activities as animal production, forest cutting, transportation, international trade, and encroachment on animal habitat.

Course Structure

This will be a seminar course that will meet once per week for 3 hours in a flexible environment that allows presentations, small-group discussion, and on-line research. Maximum class size in envisioned at 30.

Course Context

This course is planned principally as an elective for final year undergraduate students in the Applied Biology Degree (animal stream) and for graduate students in the Animal Science graduate program. It provides a logical follow-up from the two existing third year courses, APBI 314 (Animals and Society) and APBI 315 (Animal Welfare and the Ethics of Animal Use). The prerequisite for undergraduates is at least one of these two courses. The course may also attract students in Animal Biology, Forestry, Conservation, and other fields.

The course will also serve as a unique research methods course, focusing on finding and synthesizing disparate types of information in order to answer complex questions, often as a basis for policy.

Course Outline

The course will consist of two parts.

Part 1

In the first half of the course, the weekly session will focus on an assigned question (one per week) such as the following:

  1. Are animal-source foods good for human health?
  2. How does the introduction of exotic animals affect local ecology?
  3. Is logging detrimental or beneficial to forest wildlife ecosystems?
  4. Why are there so many new zoonotic diseases?
  5. Why has animal production become intensified?
  6. Are confinement or free-range systems better for animal health and welfare?
  7. Should we eradicate or vaccinate to control common diseases of farm animals?

The list of questions will be decided early in the term, partly on the basis of student interest.

The instructor will introduce the question, and students will identify (through discussion) the information needed to answer it. Students will then begin their research during class time, and they will pool resources in the final 30 minutes of the session. During the week, students will then write (individually) a 4-page essay describing their findings. These will be submitted the following week for marking and comments. Marks for the best five of these essays will contribute part of the final mark. Comments on the essays will help students develop expository writing skills, and will establish expectations for the term paper.

Part 2

In the final half of the course, students will use and demonstrate the skills they have developed by writing a term paper of 15-20 double-spaced pages, and giving an oral presentation. Each student will choose a different topic within the theme of animals and global issues. Sample topics include:

  1. The global impact of oil spills
  2. Sewage and aquatic animals
  3. Is logging detrimental or beneficial to forest wildlife ecosystems?
  4. Global animal production and greenhouse gasses
  5. Grazing and desertification
  6. Agrarian and industrial world-views in animal production
  7. The humaneness of vertebrate pest control
  8. International trade in exotic animals
  9. The effect of roads on wildlife
  10. Control of rabid dogs


Assessment will use written work and student presentations to assess the degree of achievement of the learning objectives, as follows:

Activity Grade
1. Five of the 4-page weekly essays x 9 marks 45%
2. Term Paper 30%
3. Oral presentation and leading discussion 15%
4. Participation and attendance 10%
TOTAL: 100%

Items 1 and 2 will be scored equally for (1) thoroughness of research, (2) quality of analysis and synthesis, and (3) clarity and quality of presentation. Full marks will require that students combine different sources of data and/or different fields of science in drawing their conclusions.