Imagine walking into a university classroom and seeing college students engaged in a debate over the ethics of animal agriculture, or better yet, a lecture on how to best enact change for animals in our legislature. Sound too good to be true? It’s not. Within the last few years, there has been an increase in animal welfare or animal-rights-related courses in schools around the United States.

While animals have long been the subject of biology and veterinary school courses, new classes in the humanities and social sciences departments look at the role and treatment of animals in society. According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, more than 120 law schools in the United States and Canada offer animal law courses. In 2000, just nine law schools offered courses in animal law.

Peter Singer, famous for his book Animal Liberation, is a professor of bioethics at Princeton University. In his courses, he discusses the ethics of animals in research. Tufts University’s Center for Animals and Public Policy “advances research, policy analysis, education and service pertaining to the important roles animals play in society, and explores the ethical implications of the human-animal relationship.” They offer a masters degree in Animals and Public Policy as well as animal ethics coursework in the veterinary school.

In 2008 the Humane Society of the United States established Humane Society University as an institute of higher learning with animal-focused degrees. At this institution students can earn a Bachelor of Science degree or a graduate certificate in Animal Policy and Advocacy. The university offers a wide range of animal and leadership courses including Farm Animal Welfare, Wildlife Policy, Research Animal Policy and Global Animal Issues.

Not every vegan has the luxury of attending a school that offers these types of courses. Therefore, it is beneficial for vegans to teach courses at any university, even if the course does not center around animal or vegan topics. Think about how beneficial it would be to have a vegan religious studies professor who can teach about religious texts on animal treatment, a nutrition professor who discusses the benefits of a vegan diet, a philosophy professor who holds a debate about animal ethics, a business professor who teaches students how to run a non-profit organization, or a medical school professor who uses cadavers for dissection instead of animals.

However, despite the success stories of professors who are pioneering animal courses at their universities, there are still many setbacks for vegan professors. Vegan Mainstream recently talked with Christine, an online college professor who fears that she will lose her job if her university’s administration finds out that she is vegan (she works at a private institution). Christine did not even feel comfortable giving her full name during the interview for fear of retribution.

Read her interview from the Vegan Mainstream newsletter archives.

Talk to us: Have you ever felt discrimination at work as a result of being a vegan? Have you seen positive changes for the animal rights movement in post-secondary institutions?