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LETTER: U. should phase out animal science

As a Rutgers University alumna, I am writing to urge University President Robert L. Barchi to phase out animal science at Rutgers’ School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. Animal science teaches false beliefs about other animals, health and food, perpetuates mass abuse of nonhuman animals and devastation of the living world — and raising other animals is not agriculture, which means cultivation of fields. The flesh, cow’s milk and egg industries wheedled their way into our colleges of agriculture long ago under false pretenses. Our land-grant universities (LGUs) perpetuate terrible wrongs by continuing to serve, promote and sustain them.

As an educator with a social sciences and environmental background, I was taught to improve the lives of others — not subject them to infectious and non-communicable diseases and unhealthy lifestyles. Animal science curricula inculcate in the minds of students that consuming nonhuman flesh, milk and eggs, and breeding and slaughtering other animals for human consumption are natural, normal and necessary for human health, and that careers in related industries are morally sound. The opposite is true, and nor can nonhuman animals bred and owned by human beings lead fulfilling lives.

Some of the many miseries attributable to “animal science" are: climate breakdown, devastation of lands, pollution of water and soil, inflation of prices for grains which could be redirected to eradicate hunger, rampant and irresponsible use of pesticides, insecticides, antibiotics and other chemicals, horrific abuse of nonhuman animals, lifestyle diseases, including cancers, obesity, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and the spread of infectious diseases, including the current deadly influenza epidemic. 

Psychologists and others increasingly recognize moral injury. Though, as of right now, the term is used mainly to describe the devastation soldiers experience when the government tells them they will do good and instead they end up doing egregious harm, nothing about the phrase “moral injury” itself limits it to that meaning alone. 

I believe that Rutgers and other LGUs do moral injury to all involved in animal science, and to their entire university communities and taxpayers who fund LGUs by sustaining animal abuse policy, culture and practice through dairy science, aquaculture, poultry science and all the other components of animal science. As I say above, animal science inflicts preventable extreme injury to human beings, nonhuman animals and the living world.

The situation becomes more dire by the day as three plant or nonhuman species go extinct per hour, climate breakdown worsens and millions of nonhumans are unconscionably bred and killed. 

As an educational institution, I hope Rutgers has not been sweeping this major problem under the rug to satisfy industry wishes.  

I urge Barchi, as well as Rutgers University faculty and students, to investigate these matters independently and not rely on people with the strongest conflicts of interest, such as those in the agricultural and food science departments. Please read RPA’s paper “The Case for Ending ‘Animal Science’ Documented” at RPAforAll.org

Bethany Cortale graduated from Douglas College in 1997. 

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