The Rev Professor Andrew Linzey, the first person to hold a chair in theology specifically related to animal issues, has been made inaugural director of the Ferrata Mora Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics (OCAE) ñ a pioneering academic institution in a hotly contested area.
In recent years there have been huge public arguments about animal experimentation, intensive farming and other aspects of the relationship between human beings and the rest of the animal world.
The Oxford Centre is the first academic institution of its kind explicitly dedicated to the enhancement of the status of animals in ethical debate. It will operate through publications, teaching and research.
Academics practitioners worldwide 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.
Professor Linzey hopes to attract senior scientists and people working in relevant areas of the humanities to become Fellows of the OCAE, and to contribute to its work. Nobel Laureate Professor J.M Coetzee will be its first Honorary Fellow.
The six Founding Fellows include Martin Willison, Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, and five philosophers and theologians.
Four lawyers, a mathematician, a physicist, a psychologist, seven ethicists (including three concerned with environmental or bioethics) and a food policy specialist, and a number of philosophers and theologians are among the advisers.
Among the better-known names are A. C. Grayling, a philosopher and media commentator, and John Gray, Professor of Modern European Thought at the London School of Economics.
An initial major area of research concern will be the relationship between animal abuse and violence to human beings. Other projects under consideration include an online course in animal ethics, a new monograph series, and a Journal of Animal Ethics.
Professor Linzey commented: ìThe support of such a large number of internationally recognised academics underlines just how important animals are as a moral issue. There is a strong rational case for animals, which has been recognised over the centuries by academics and philosophers.î
Continued the new director: ìWhat 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 recognised 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.î
Professor Linzey added: ìWe 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.î
Professor Priscilla Cohn, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Penn State University, who is the Associate Director of the Centre, added: ìIt 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.î
The Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics is named after the distinguished philosopher, Jose Ferrater Mora, who spoke out vigorously against bull-fighting in Spain.