BA History and Sociology

Year of entry: 2022

Course unit details:
Sociology of Human Animal Relations

Unit code SOCY30042
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Sociology
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course explores the significance of human-animal relations for understanding human societies. With reference to the diverse and often controversial roles of animals in modern societies, as pets, as foods, as cosmetics, as laboratory animals and as agricultural machines, it examines the important but often invisible role of nonhuman animals in human social life.  


Throughout history nonhuman animals have played key roles in human societies. In different historical periods and in different cultures animals have been key sources of calories, clothing, labour power, physical protection and companionship, as well as cultural symbolism, identities, mythology and religious beliefs. In late modern societies, animals and the various products derived from their bodies continue to play a huge role in both material and cultural aspects of human social organisation. This has led some to argue that it is necessary to understand social life as comprising more than just the interactions between human beings, and this course takes up that argument. 

The course will trace how human-animal relations have changed over time, and how these changes have been connected to social transformations, with an emphasis upon changing human-animal relations in modernity. The deeply ambiguous and contested place of animals in modern societies will be explored in depth, with reference to the diverse roles of animals in different locales, from the home to the farm, from the zoo to the laboratory. In this way the course will combine 'macro' and 'micro' approaches, exploring the nature of human-animal interactions in everyday life as well as in rationalised modern systems of production and consumption.

Learning outcomes

On completion of this course unit students will be able to:

- Assess the importance of human-animal relations for understanding human social life.
- Explain how the relations between humans and nonhuman animals have changed over time in relation to social transformations.
- Understand the diverse and ambiguous roles of animals in a range of social institutions and locales.
- Identify the changing ideological function of animals in various modern discourses and cultural forms.
- Critically assess the material and cultural significance of nonhuman animals in late modern societies.

Teaching and learning methods

Lecture-style material will be delivered weekly through a mix of up to one hour pre-recorded (i.e. asynchronous) content and one hour live (i.e. synchronous) lecturer-led classes. Additionally, weekly one hour small-group tutorials will be delivered on-campus as long as government guidelines allow, otherwise they will be delivered online.

The course will utilise Blackboard in delivering the module’s course content, core readings, lecture slides, supplementary material including films, and communication

Weekly lecture and tutorial/workshop, incorporating small group discussion of key readings focussed upon questions set by the lecturer, student presentations, and whole group interactive learning.

Employability skills

This course develops skills in conceptual and analytical thinking, critical evaluation of ideas and arguments, synthesis of information from multiple sources, and oral presentation. The course content deals with issues around human relations with animals which are relevant for a range of public and private sector organisations, from animal welfare, wildlife and conservation groups to zoos, agricultural producers, veterinary services and scientific research organisations.

Assessment methods

  • Coursework Essay, 2500 words (50%)
  • Exam or online open-book equivalent (50%)
  • Compulsory formative assessment (essay plan) - 5 point penalty for non-submission. 

Feedback methods


All sociology courses include both formative feedback – which lets you know how you’re getting on and what you could do to improve – and summative feedback – which gives you a mark for your assessed work.

Recommended reading

Arnold Arluke and Clinton Sanders (2008) Between the Species: A Reader in Human-Animal Relationships.

Adrian Franklin (1999) Animals and Modern Cultures: A Sociology of Human-Animal Relations in Modernity.

Linda Kalof (2007) Looking at Animals in Human History.

Aubrey Manning and James Serpell (1994) Animals and Human Society: Changing Perspectives.

Susan Schrepfer and Philip Scranton (eds) (2003) Industrializing Organisms: Introducing Evolutionary History.

Arnold Arluke and Clinton Sanders (1996) Regarding Animals.

Ted Benton (1994) Natural Relations: Ecology, Animal Rights and Social Justice.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 20
Practical classes & workshops 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 170

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Richie Nimmo Unit coordinator

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