More than 100 academics from 10 countries have agreed to become advisers to the new Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, launched online on November 27 at http://www.oxfordanimalethics.com/, which aims to put animals on the intellectual agenda.
The Centre is the world's first academy dedicated to the enhancement of the ethical status of animals through academic publication, teaching and research. Academics worldwide from both the sciences and the humanities will be eligible to become Fellows of the Centre. It will act as an international, independent think tank for the advancement of progressive thought about animals.
One of the areas of research will be the relationship between animal abuse and violence to human beings. One of the world's major writers who has explored this link, Nobel Laureate in Literature, Professor J. M. Coetzee, has honored the Centre by agreeing to become its first Honorary Fellow. Other projects being pursued include an online course in animal ethics, a new monograph series, and a new Journal of Animal Ethics.
The Centre's first director, Oxford theologian, the Rev. Professor Andrew Linzey, said: "The support of such a large number of internationally recognized academics underlines just how important animals are as a moral issue.
"There is a strong rational case for animals, which has been recognized over the centuries by academics and philosophers. What is needed is for this rational case to be much better known and there are now signs that progressive thinking is becoming mainstream. Importantly, animals are now recognized as sentient beings in European law; and, in the UK, the most comprehensive - and long overdue - overhaul of animal welfare legislation for almost a century is shortly to be enacted into law.
"We must strive to ensure animal issues are highlighted and rationally discussed throughout society - we cannot change the world for animals without changing our ideas about them. The Centre will promote ethical attitudes and contribute to informed public debate."
Professor Priscilla Cohn, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Penn State University, who is the Associate Director of the Centre, added: "It seems to us that academics should take the lead in helping to foster a new kind of debate about animals - one that goes beyond slogans and stereotypes."
The Rev. Professor Andrew Linzey is a Member of the Faculty of Theology, University of Oxford, and holds the world's first post in Ethics, Theology and Animal Welfare - the Bede Jarrett Senior Research Fellowship at Blackfriars Hall, University of Oxford. He has written or edited 20 books, including Animal Theology (SCM Press/University of Illinois Press, 1994) and Animal Rights: A Historical Anthology (Columbia University Press, 2005).
Professor Priscilla N. Cohn is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Abington College, Penn State University. She has taught courses on animal ethics for 35 years, and lectured on five continents. Her books include Contraception in Wildlife, Book 1 (Edwin Mellen Press, 1996) and Ethics and Wildlife (Edwin Mellen Press, 1999).
The first six Founding Fellows comprise three theologians, two philosophers, and one scientist from the UK, US, Australia, Armenia and Canada: Professor Paul Ara Barsam (theologian at the University of Yerevan, Armenia), Professor Mark Bernstein (philosopher at Purdue University, USA), Dr Scott Cowdell (theologian at Charles Sturt University and Rector, St Paul's Anglican Church, Canberra, Australia), Professor Susan Pigott (Old Testament scholar at Hardin-Simmons University, Abilene, Texas), Professor Mark Rowlands (philosopher at the University of Hertfordshire), and Professor Martin Willison (biologist and environmentalist at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada).
The Advisers and the first six Fellows are listed on the Centre's website. The Centre is named after the distinguished Spanish philosopher, José Ferrater Mora, who courageously spoke out against bull-fighting in Spain.