California philanthropist mourning his dead miniature
schnauzer creates a multimillion-dollar foundation to fund no-kill animal
shelters around the country. He is criticized for lavishing his wealth
on needy pets instead of needy people.
in time for spring break, an animal-rights group targets college students
with a Got Beer? ad campaign. It suggests that consumers would be healthier,
not to mention kinder to cows, if they drank cholesterol-free beer instead
of milk. Under pressure from Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the group
distills the alcohol out of its message, but continues to link dairy products
to cancer, heart disease and other ills.
topics stir up more public interest, emotion and debate today than humans
interactions with and use of animals. But whats often missing from the
headlines, attention-grabbing gestures and policy-making is the exchange
of unbiased, scientific data, observes Dr. James Serpell, the Marie A.
Moore Associate Professor of Humane Ethics and Animal Welfare at Penns
School of Veterinary Medicine. In an attempt to fill that void, Serpell
has reestablished a 21-year-old academic center on campus and committed
it to studying the impact and ethics of human-animal relationsminus the
browse through recent news stories about tofu pies tossed at fur-draped
runway models, a man jailed for refusing to give up his illegally kept
ferret after it allegedly bit a child at a pro-ferret rally, and a clerical
leader associating vegetarians with the Antichristwould seem to indicate
that the director of the Center for the Interaction of Animals and Society
(CIAS) has a formidable task ahead.
are a lot of people who are quite entrenched on either side of the animal-welfare
issue, admits Serpell, a soft-spoken Englishman who is not too serious-minded
to keep a Far Side coffee mug stamped with anthropomorphic cows on his
office desk. But he believes that society will ultimately call the shotsand
that it is inching toward the left in its concern for the environment
and, consequently, the treatment of animals.
see my goal here as a kind of facilitator of that process, says Serpell,
who for the record, is not a vegetarian, though he does limit his
consumption of animal products. Im not trying to slash through cherished
icons or beliefs, but rather to kind of set up a dialogue, bring different
parties together to talk about the research and have things on a fairly
scholarly basis, so it doesnt just end up in polemics.
that end, CIAS has hosted seven interdisciplinary conferences on campus
since 1997, using a grant from the provosts office, and is engaged in
several research projects. Its long-range goals include starting a graduate
program on animal welfare and human-animal interactions at Penns Vet
School, creating a clearinghouse for information on alternatives to animal
research, establishing a program to improve the treatment of farm animals
and studying both the positive and negative effects of pet-keeping on
companion animals as well as humans.
any of these goals is realized, however, depends critically on Serpell
securing permanent funding for the project. For the time being, Serpell
is the Center (he has one post-doctoral assistant), although a
number of colleagues at Penn have been helpful to the organization. I
find it difficult to formally affiliate people without knowing that the
Center has a future, he explains.