ABOUT CARING FOR ANIMALS RESEARCH LAB (CARE)
“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” – Mahatma Gandhi
The Caring for Animals REsearch Lab (CARE) aims to be a leading interdisciplinary scientific hub for research, practice and policy discussions about animal welfare, both on campus at DKU and in collaboration with interested partners throughout China, and globally.
Animal welfare and rights in the People’s Republic of China is a topic of growing interest. Historically, several traditional Chinese worldviews emphasize caring for animals, including Taoism and Buddhist vegetarianism. Taoist Zhuang Zhou taught compassion for all sentient beings. Currently, movements towards animal welfare and animal rights are expanding in China.
We aim to explore and discuss the world’s most pressing animal welfare concerns, including (but not limited to): the means and extent of animal agriculture; the ethics of animal companionship and problems of pet abuse; the trade and consumption of exotic wildlife and dog/ cat meat; animal research in cosmetics and medicine; and the use of animals for entertainment and research in zoos and aquariums; COVID-19 impact on animal adoption and abandonment.
The Lab aims to have 3 major focus areas: (1) Research; (2) Teaching and Supervision; (3) Outreach and Community Engagement.
The focus of research will be on testing strategies to promote changes in consumer behavior and national attitudes regarding:
- Cruelty-free household and cosmetic products. Cruelty-free is a label for products or activities that do not harm or kill animals. Products tested on animals or made from animals are not considered cruelty-free, since these tests are often painful and cause the suffering and death of millions of animals every year. Nonetheless, a multitude of cruelty-free cosmetics and household products are not tested on animals, and are available to consumers in most countries, in most supermarkets and online. However, awareness about this issue and willingness to purchase products not tested on animals remains low or unknown. We plan a national representative survey in China to address this gap in order to a) understand the extent and range of knowledge of population (18-55 years old) regarding animal testing and cruelty-free products; and b) test the impact of introducing to Chinese people different cruelty-free international labels and how these could change consumers’ willingness to pay for products not tested on animals.
- Plant-based diet. Livestock farming has grown exponentially in China in recent years, such that China is now the world’s biggest animal farming nation. In 1978, China collectively consumed 1/3 as much meat as the United States. By 1992 China had caught up, and by 2012, China’s meat consumption was more than double that of the U.S. Moving toward plant-based diets, totally or partially, would drastically reduce animal suffering in addition to mitigate climate change (i.e., animal farming produces methane, a greenhouse gas). Consumer meat appetites, however, die-hard and require humane individual, household and policy consistent actions to be reduce broadly. This will be approached with exploratory interviews on campus to students, faculty members and cafeteria staff; these interviews will be led by students and supervised by faculty. Here, we will explore which barriers and facilitators the DKU community perceives to hinder/ help the uptake of more vegetarian/ vegan options, including protein replacements (e.g., tofu vs. meat) or dairy-free products (e.g., soy milk vs. cow milk).
This research will be conceptualized and executed in an interdisciplinary way, considering theoretical and methodological approaches from (experimental) philosophy, ethics and behavioral science. For instance, the national survey may include randomized moral dilemmas scenarios as well as traditional behavioral strategies; the interviews may explore both psychological factors as well as ethical considerations when decide to eat (or not) meat and other animal products.
(2) Teaching and Supervision
A major aim is to use the lab to facilitate relevant collaboration amongst students, and to use it as a further mechanism for them to share their works and get feedback from one another as well as from faculty. We aim to supervise Signature Work (SW) and Master students interested in topics such as (for instance) animal rights, animal welfare, plant-based diet, cruelty-free consumption, vegetarian lifestyles etc. The lab will serve as a hub to arrange appropriate collaborations among students, and between students and the larger DKU (Duke) community. Moreover, we plan to organize experiential learning activities within Common Core courses. SW projects may be co-supervised to produce interdisciplinary approaches.
(3) Outreach and Community Engagement
The lab aims to be a focal point for students, faculty and staff interested in protecting animal welfare. We aim to create a WeChat group and a Lab website, where news, alerts and community activities are posted. We aim to foster and promote student-led activities with faculty supervision, which may include:
- Organizing a well-structured shared activity group to care for campus stray dogs and cats e.g., weekly supply to feeding stations. We will support student-driven activities to educate and increase awareness for animal welfare on campus and neighboring areas;
- Advocacy against animal abuse. Students will be encouraged to design responsible and supervised social media campaigns to address their specific animal welfare interests;
- Facilitate student internships in animal welfare organizations e.g., https://www.chinacetaceanalliance.org/ ; https://www.esdaw.eu/animal-welfare-and-rights-in-china.html
- Foster a connection between DKU students and students with similar interests in Duke University, Duke-NUS Singapore and other universities for knowledge sharing and joint initiatives e.g., Duke Paws https://sites.duke.edu/dukepaws/