Date of Award

Spring 2019

Thesis Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Master of Liberal Studies


Dr. Ryan Musgrave

Second Advisor

Dr. Thomas Cook


The capabilities of non-human animals have long been subjected to philosophical consideration in the West. Over the course of a longstanding cultural dialogue about non-human animal capability, the Aristotelian view of humans as the only rational species, and consequently more valuable species in a hierarchy of being, seems to have prevailed. In this thesis, a Western view of animal cognition as “non-rational” is juxtaposed with the contemporary study of animal minds via the disciplines of comparative psychology, ethology and animal studies in order to emphasize a cognitive dissonance between historical and contemporary views. Based in part on belief in animal mind (BAM) research which correlates beliefs, attitudes and conceptions of animal minds with usage and treatment, this work will explore a possible linkage between an historical way of thinking about non-human animals as lesser-than to one particular outcome of climate change. Using an ecological feminist approach, the Western conception of non-human animal cognition will be traced through the ancient and modern historical periods to establish the Western conception as dualistic, hierarchical and characterized by a logic of domination. I contend this logic is one of many forces which drive the animal agriculture industry and in doing so, has contributed in part to the problem of climate change. Through an examination of the role that animal agriculture plays in climate change, a transition to an aspirationally vegan diet is recommended as a best practice for engaging empathetically with non-human animals and combating climate change.

Rights Holder

Jinji Donato