Human-Animal Studies (also known as anthrozoology or animal studies) is the scholarly study of human/non-human animal relationships, in all of their varieties, from living with companion animals to watching Animal Planet to eating animal products for dinner. It also encompasses how people think about and represent animals -- the ways in which we use animals in religion, art, and literature, how popular animals are on the Internet, and how we form our complicated and often contradictory attitudes about other animals.
Human-Animal Studies (HAS) is a growing academic field, taught in courses in hundreds of colleges and universities, and it forms the basis of a dozen majors, minors and other degree programs around the world. It's the subject of thousands of books and almost two dozen academic journals.
But for most animal lovers, who are neither college students nor scholars, why should this matter? Does HAS actually help animals at all?
I think it does.
When we teach a sociology course on animals and society, an anthropology course on cross-cultural views and uses of animals, a psychology course on the human-animal bond, or an English course on dogs in Victorian literature, we expose students to new ways of seeing other animals. Often, a college course like this is the first time that many students have thought critically, for the first time, about animals at all. For many people, after all, their only interaction with animals is in two venues--through the pets that they live with and the animals that they eat -- and they never really think about these vastly opposing issues.