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The IU Bloomington Libraries' Philosophy collection supports research and teaching in all branches of philosophy.

Animal Philosophies

During April, we celebrate both Earth Month and Earth Day (April 26th). Earth Day has been celebrated since 1970 and marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement. In celebration of this month and day, we have developed a guide focusing on human relationships with the non-human world. This feature will center on the field of Animal Studies (and Critical Animal Studies)—inter-disciplinary fields grounded in trans-species intersectionality, questions of "animality," human-made representations of and cultural ideas about "the animal," environmental justice, social activism, and the ethics of human treatment of the creatures with which we share our planet. In the following tabs, you will find introductory animal studies texts and journals. You will also find texts that incorporate animal studies into the fields of philosophy, religion/theology, and critical race theory. Additionally, we have included brief introductions to some related fields including ecocriticism, veganism & vegetarianism, and ecofeminism.

Drawing of a beige cat sitting on it's tail in a pensive position.

Illustration: Armando Veve, cover art for Feline Philosophy.

If you are looking to learn more about the history of a specific animal, look into The Animal Series from Reaktion Books which explores the natural history of animals alongside their historical and cultural impact on humankind. Each short book is a wonderful introduction to an animal with which you are probably familiar and maybe even encounter daily!

Book cover with a black and white moth.Book cover with a pink hare.Book cover with a purple nightingale.Book cover with a green lizard.

Image: The Animal Series from Reaktion Books. MothHareNightingaleLizard.

Next Steps

For more resourced related to animal studies, check out our guide to representations of human/non-human relationships in the media, literature, and music on the Media Studies Research Guide.

If you'd like to explore more thematic content relevant to nature and the environment, try the highlight on Environmental Ethics & Aesthetics. as well as the Environmental Justice & Earth Day feature at the Media Studies Research Guide, which includes music, novels, feature films, and documentaries on these topics.

When looking for animal studies articles, try using the following terms/keywords:

  • Ahuman theory
  • Animal communication
  • Animal experimentation
  • Animal exploitation
  • Animal liberation
  • Animal rights
  • Animal welfare
  • Animal–industrial complex
  • Animality
  • Creature/creaturely 
  • Eco-ability movement
  • Ecocriticism 
  • Ecofeminism
  • Environmental humanities
  • Fauna-criticism
  • Human-animal relationships
  • Human-animal studies
  • Posthumanism/Posthumanities
  • Sentientist 
  • Speciesism 
  • Veganarchism
  • Zoopoetics 

For more Animal Studies Journals, see the Animal Studies Journal list.

Critical animal studies (CAS) is a theory-to-activism global community. It emerged in 2001 with the founding of the Centre for Animal Liberation Affairs by Anthony J. Nocella and Steven Best, which in 2007 became the Institute for Critical Animal Studies (ICAS). Critical Animal Studies is interested in ethical reflection on the relationships between humans and other animals. Scholars in the field seek to integrate academic research with political engagement and activism. Generally speaking, CAS is considered more radical than Animal Studies with many scholars in the field expressing the need to direct action and political engagement, though some scholars in Animal Studies also share these views. 

For more texts, search "Critical animal studies" under title series in IUCAT and see the Critical Animal Studies Series published by Brill. For an introductory critique of CAS, see the following article: "Has the Growth of Critical Animal Studies Been Good for Animals?" by Moe Constantine and Z. Zane McNeill.

"Animal Liberation, Human Liberation" circular graphic.

When researching animals in religion, try utilizing the "Human animal relationships--Religious aspects" or "Animals--Religious aspects" subject headings in IUCAT.

Relief in stone, detail of the head of a cow. Credit in text below.

Image: Relief of a cow (representing Hathor) from the Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut. Via Artstor, 1458 BCE.

Many scholarly field overlap with animal studies. These fields are often intersectional, for example, incorporating feminist scholarship or design theory with animal studies. Below you will find just a small sampling of the many animal studies-related fields:

  • Ecocriticism
  • Ecofeminism
  • Plant Theory
  • Veganism & Vegetarianism
  • Art & Design


Ecocriticism is the study of literature and ecology often referring to literary criticism where scholars analyze texts that illustrate environmental concerns and examine the various ways humans treats the subject of nature. Ecocriticism comes from the works of Joseph Meeker, who presented the idea of “literary ecology” in The Comedy of Survival: Studies in Literary Ecology (1972). The term 'ecocriticism' was coined in 1978 by William Rueckert in his essay "Literature and Ecology: An Experiment in Ecocriticism." Ecocriticism is known by a number of other designations, including "green (cultural) studies", "ecopoetics", and "environmental literary criticism", and is informed by fields such as ecology, sustainable design, biopolitics, environmental history, environmentalism, and social ecology, among others. In the United States, the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE) hosts a biennial conference for scholars who deal with environmental matters in literature and the environmental humanities in general. ASLE also published the Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment (ISLE) Journal. 

Adapted from: EcocriticismWikipedia.


Ecofeminism is an intersectional branch of feminism and political ecology. Ecofeminist thinkers draw on concepts of gender to analyze relationships between humans and the natural world. The term was coined by the French writer Françoise d'Eaubonne in Le Féminisme ou la Mort (1974). There are several branches of ecofeminism including liberal ecofeminism, spiritual/cultural ecofeminism, and social/socialist ecofeminism (or materialist ecofeminism).

Plant Theory 

Plant Theory is an emerging field that considered how vegetable life fits into philosophical questions of morality, ethics, and human relationships with the non-human. For more texts on plant theory, try searching under the subject heading "Plants Philosophy" or "Biopolitics" in IUCAT.

Veganism & Vegetarianism 

These are both not only diets and lifestyle choices that abstain from the use of animal products in various forms, they are also political movements that have inspired direct action and influenced animal rights activists for decades. The environmental impacts of meat-centric diets that many Americans consume have clear impacts on our planet, animals, and the workers that produce our food. Embracing vegan/vegetarian diets are actions that one can take to reduce the impacts of our consumption. Though food consumption is often only a small fraction of a person’s total carbon footprint and direct political action can have a larger impact on our planet, dietary changes, like incorporating more plant-based proteins into one's diet are often one of the quickest ways for many people to lighten their climate impact.

Art & Design

Humans have long been inspired by animals in our creative/artistic pursuits in in constructing our built environments. The books below offer a few examples of how animals have influenced human art and design.

There are many ways to get involved with Animal Rights and Environmental movements right here in and around Bloomington. From incorporating animal studies into your scholarship to donating money and participating in direct action campaigns, see the following list for organizations supporting animals and the environment in the Bloomington area:

  • Bloomington Animal Shelter  Run by Bloomington Animal Care and Control, whose mission is to address and respond to all animal needs in the community through education, enforcement and support in order to build a community where animals are valued and treated with kindness and respect. The Animal Shelter is accepting donations and foster applications.
  • Monroe County Humane Association (MCHA)  "Dedicated to promoting the welfare of animals, strengthening the human-animal bond, and providing access to veterinary care & humane education across our community."
  • Sunrise Bloomington  "We are a group of undergrads, grads, faculty, high schoolers and Bloomington community members who are dedicated to bringing about positive changes towards climate justice initiative through grassroots movement building!"
  • IU Student Animal Legal Defense Fund  The Student Animal Legal Defense Fund was established at IU Maurer School of Law in 2010 to provide a forum for education, advocacy, and scholarship aimed at improving the lives of animals and advancing their interests through the legal system.
  • BloomingVeg  "An all-ages social and advocacy group for vegetarians, vegans, and veggie-lovers alike in Bloomington, Indiana."
  • Indy VegFest  A "nonprofit organization whose mission is to increase the public’s acceptance of the compassionate, environmental, and health facets of a vegan lifestyle through an annual event and year-round outreach and education opportunities."
  • Rainbow Bakery  Vegan bakery in Bloomington, IN.
  • Vegan, Vegetarian & Gluten-Free Restaurants in Bloomington
  • Uplands PEAK Sanctuary Indiana's first farmed animal sanctuary, providing lifelong care to their residents, educational tours, and volunteer opportunities.

The following are national organizations fighting for animal rights, liberation, and environmental justice. For more information on the impact of a few of the organizations listed below, check out Animal Charity Evaluators, which researches animal welfare organizations.

  • Native American Humane Society  "Shares our expertise to help tribal communities learn how to humanely manage and care for the animal populations in their own communities. NAHS connects tribal communities and animal welfare service providers, NGOs, foundations, and other agencies to assist tribal communities in resolving their challenges with animals through regular animal care, population management, and community activities."
  • The Humane League  "We exist to end the abuse of animals raised for food by influencing the policies of the world’s biggest companies, demanding legislation, and empowering others to take action and leave animals off their plates." 
  • Good Food Institute  "A nonprofit think tank working to make the global food system better for the planet, people, and animals. Alongside scientists, businesses, and policymakers, GFI’s teams focus on making plant-based and cultivated meat delicious, affordable, and accessible."
  • The Green New Deal Network  "A coalition of grassroots organizations, labor, and climate and environmental justice organizations growing a movement to pass local, state, and national policies that create millions of family-sustaining union jobs, ensure racial and gender equity, and take action on climate at the scale and scope the crisis demands."
  • Indigenous Environmental Network  "IEN was formed by grassroots Indigenous peoples and individuals to address environmental and economic justice issues (EJ). IEN’s activities include building the capacity of Indigenous communities and tribal governments to develop mechanisms to protect our sacred sites, land, water, air, natural resources, health of both our people and all living things, and to build economically sustainable communities."