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Scholars Track

Sponsored by

Brooks Institute.png

The 2023 Canadian Animal Law Conference, in collaboration with the North American Animal Law Conference, will kick off with an entire day showcasing animal law and policy scholarship that is conducive to deeper thought and consideration of a particular topic. The Scholars Track features keynote-style presentations by prominent scholars from across North America, with ample opportunity for scholarly, moderated discussion. 


The Scholars Track is designed to attract scholarly peers and will expose and inspire others to scholarship or excellence, in theory and practice. The Scholars Track is guaranteed to be a conference highlight.

Friday, September 29

8:15am - 9:00am
9:00am - 10:30am
Scholars Track: Social Norms in Animal Cultures

Speaker: Kristin Andrews

Moderator: Andrew Fenton

10:30am - 11:00am
Morning Break
11:00am - 12:30pm
12:30pm - 1:30pm
1:30pm - 3:00pm
3:00pm - 3:30pm
3:30pm - 5:00pm
Scholars Track: Animal Welfare and the Validity of Animal-Based Biomedical Research

Animal welfare scientists have long suggested that the constrained lives of lab animals could affect the quality of the data they yield. Some biomedical researchers have now added their voices, raising concerns about obesity and chronic cold in research rats and mice respectively. Work by my PhD student Jessica Cait also recently ran meta-analyses showing that compared to well-resourced (or 'enriched') conditions, conventional cage conditions increase the severity of induced anxiety, cancer, cardiovascular disease, depression and stroke, and enhance all-cause mortality (Cait et al. 2022). Conventional cages are thus harmful. This work also echoed previous findings that research animals are male biased, leading us to label them 'CRAMPED' (cold, rotund, abnormal, male-biased, enclosed and distressed). But would improving housing conditions, and moving away from CRAMPED subjects, change research results? Some are scared by this possibility. However, it could represent an opportunity to improve the currently very poor rates at which data from animals successfully translate to humans. I will present results from our new meta-analyses showing the extent to which housing quality can affect the conclusions drawn from studies of 'disease modifiers' (e.g. therapeutic drugs).  Our new results show that reporting housing conditions in research papers is essential if research replicability is to be improved. They also show that animal welfare can affect the generalizability of research findings, and needs to be considered if we biomedical research is to model the full spectrum of human experience, not just the lives of confined, unhealthy, overweight men. 

Lunch Break

Speaker: Maya Mathur

Moderator: Kristen Stilt

Numerous types of interventions have been proposed to reduce consumption of meat and animal products, including education, legal action (e.g., challenging ag-gag laws), and behavior “nudges”. Nudges are simple changes to environments that are intended to shift behavior while preserving choice. Nudges to reduce consumption of meat and animal products include offering more plant-based menu options, using signage to evoke viewers’ ethical values, and making plant-based meals the default option. They have the potential to be effective, cheap, easy to implement, and applicable across many food-service settings. Maya will review the scientific evidence on nudges to reduce consumption of meat and animal products, and close with a serious caveat about the potential for well-intentioned nudges to severely backfire.

Scholars Track: Nudges to Reduce Meat and Animal-Product Consumption: The State of the Scientific Evidence

Speaker: David M. Peña-Guzmán
Moderator: Pablo Pérez Castelló

Recent developments in the fields of philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience suggest that many nonhuman animals run "reality simulations" (i.e. dreams) during sleep. What do these simulations tell us about the minds of other animals? What do they tell us about their cognitive, emotional, and social capabilities? And maybe are the ethical and legal implications of the dreams of other species? In this presentation, Dr. David M. Peña-Guzmán explores some of these developments, considering how dreaming may help us reconsider humanist assumptions we have inherited from the past about who animals are and how they experience the world.

Afternoon Break
Scholars Track: When Animals Dream

Social norms—rules governing which behaviors are deemed appropriate or inappropriate within a given community—are typically taken to be uniquely human. Recently, this position has been challenged. The view that norms are human unique stems from commitments regarding the psychological capacities required for having them, and skepticism that animals possess these prerequisites. However, among norm cognition researchers there is little agreement about the cognitive architecture that underpins social norms in humans. To make progress on the question, we need to find a point of agreement in terms of an operationalized account of social norms. We propose examining normative regularities: a socially maintained pattern of behavioral conformity within a community (Westra and Andrews, 2022). Using this construct, Kristin will briefly present three potential cases in primates and discuss the sort of evidence that would be needed to conclude that they qualify as normative regularities. Kristin considers two objections: that social norms involve following rules with deontic content (and animals don’t do that), and that having social norms requires punishing non-compliant actors (and animals don’t do that). Kristin will conclude with some practical and theoretical implications.

Speaker: Georgia Mason

Moderator: Becca Franks

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