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Environmental and Animal Ethics

Ethical concerns about animals and the environment are fundamental to policy formation in areas such as climate change, agriculture, genomics, poverty, and conservation. Such ethical concerns also open up difficult and interesting philosophical questions about justice, moral status, future generations, and the scope of rights. Research in these areas requires both philosophical rigor and a working knowledge of other relevant disciplines, from ecology and animal science to communication and political science.

The Philosophy Department at Texas A&M provides the opportunity for graduate students to study central philosophical questions in environmental and animal ethics. Particular areas of expertise include wildlife ethics, companion animals and ethics, animals in agriculture, ethics and emerging technologies, climate ethics, the boundaries between environmental ethics and aesthetics, ethics and biodiversity, and utilitarianism and environmental ethics. We’ve hosted workshops, have many national and international interdisciplinary collaborations, and we have been awarded grants from the NSF and the USDA.

The department encourages the development of cross-disciplinary links with colleagues in a variety of disciplinary fields across the university. Ph.D. students specializing in animal and environmental ethics could benefit greatly from our PhD program’s opportunity to complete a master’s degree in another field.


  • Emily Brady research explores values at the intersection of environmental aesthetics and environmental ethics. She has a particular interest in how ‘other-regarding’ experiences, modes of attention, and attitudes, such as the sublime, wonder, beauty, and humility, ground meaningful  human-nature relationships. Her most recent books discuss these ideas: The Sublime in Modern Philosophy: Aesthetics, Ethics, and Nature (2013) and Between Nature and Culture: The Aesthetics of Modified Environments (2018). She has also published articles on rewilding, global climate change, and ecosystem services. With regard to wild animals, Brady has examined issues of autonomy, respect, critical anthropomorphism, and epistemic humility. Over the years, she has taught courses on environmental ethics, philosophy of conservation, environmental aesthetics, animal ethics, and animals and society. At Texas A&M, she leads the Humanities: Land Sea Space initiative at the Glasscock Center for Humanities Research. She serves on the Advisory Board of the Centre for Animal Ethics (UPF) and the editorial boards of Environmental Ethics and Ethics, Policy, and Environment. Brady is a past President of the International Society for Environmental Ethics and a former Associate Editor of the journal, Environmental Values.
  • Clare Palmer has research interests across the field of animal and environmental ethics, with a particular focus on wildlife, the use of emerging technologies in conservation, and climate ethics. She is the author or co-author of four books, including Animal Ethics in Context (Columbia University Press, 2010) and Companion Animal Ethics (Wiley-Blackwell 2015); she has also edited or co-edited seven other volumes. She’s published articles and book chapters on topics including sustainability, animal welfare, zoos, climate change, conservation and genetic modification. In 2018 she served as a member of the National Academy of Science, Engineering and Medicine committee that produced the Consensus Report Forest Health and Biotechnology: Possibilities and Considerations.(2019). She is a past President of the International Society for Environmental Ethics, and is currently an Associate Editor for the interdisciplinary journal People and Nature, published by the British Ecological Society. Her current research focuses on ethics, wildlife and conservation, and she’s working on an interdisciplinary, co-authored book contracted to Wiley Blackwell “Wildlife Ethics: The Ethics of Wildlife Management and Conservation”.
  • Gary Varner wrote one of the first dissertations in environmental ethics (Wisconsin–Madison 1988) and has since published three books and over 50 shorter works on related topics, including multiple papers on hunting, animal agriculture, and pet ownership. His first book, In Nature’s Interests? (Oxford 1998), defended a biocentric individualist stance but also defended sentientist views against the charge that they have systematically anti-environmental implications. In Personhood, Ethics, and Animal Cognition (Oxford 2012), Varner adopted a sentientist stance via a thorough examination of the place of animals in R.M. Hare’s two-level version of utilitarianism in light of contemporary research on animal cognition. With ecologist Jonathan Newman and Stefan Linquist, a philosopher of biology, he co-authored Defending Biodiversity: Environmental Science and Ethics (Cambridge 2017), which provides a comprehensive review and critique of both instrumental and intrinsic value-based reasons for preserving biodiversity. Varner is now working on a book tentatively titled Sustaining Animals: Envisioning Humane Sustainable Communities, which will extend his 2012 book by illustrating the usefulness of a two-level utilitarian approach to thinking about approaches to sustainability that place a premium on the wellbeing of non-human animals in various settings.



Texas A&M also has a vibrant interdisciplinary graduate program in Applied Biodiversity Science (ABS). The ABS Journal Club consists of graduate students and faculty from diverse fields who meet weekly to discuss new and important publications in conservation, and also hosts a seminar series.

The Humanities: Land Sea Space initiative at Texas A&M tackles issues at the frontiers of cross-disciplinary work through innovative research that engages with the public humanities, humanities futures, environmental humanities, blue humanities, geohumanities, energy humanities, and health humanities. Land Sea Space, which was launched in 2019, aims to bridge disciplinary boundaries and draw expertise from across Texas A&M and beyond.