Today@Sam - SHSU Campus News Online Sam Houston State University Seal
In the News
SHSU Homepage

SHSU Experts
SHSU Stats
Sam the Man
SHSU History
Austin Hall

Heritage Magazine
Huntsville Item
The Houstonian
Gov. Links
Useful Links
Theater & Dance
SHSU Athletics
Rec. Sports
Request Info
General Info
Then & Now
The President
Public Relations
Post Office
Search SHSU

An Ethical Question: Is a Horse a Tool, a Pet, or Meat Source

Kelly Jakubowski is a senior journalism major from Conroe. The opinions in this column are hers.

With all the different areas of study on campus, I often wonder if
students realize, or care, how important classes taught in other
departments are to each of us. We realize that our own studies shape the future of the profession we intend to join, but we're usually too busy to care about the others.

So, why should a Mass Communication major, like myself, care what's going on over in the agriculture department? Well, some of us may care more than others about the quality of food we consume, and at SHSU the agriculture department is partly responsible for that very issue. They address controversial subjects like bioengineering, cloning, and animal rights in many of their classes.

Accuracy is important in more than just journalism, as students learn in Biological Sciences, and appropriate conduct between students and teachers is discussed in Curriculum and Instruction.

Outside of the university environment, in our daily lives, these things
affect all of us. As difficult as it may be to see a link to all these
issues, what it really comes down to is ethics.

The study of ethics gives us tools for defining our ideas of right and
wrong, and helps us explain how we came to those conclusions. It's also really great to tell people who "hate reporters" that we are required to take ethics classes, which can help us avoid some of the mistakes which
have plagued a few--a very few--of our colleagues.

"Animals and Society" addresses animal rights in the agriculture department.

Animals and Society instructor Barry Williams said, "We talk about how different people view different groups of animals. Is a horse a pet, a tool, a source of meat? Is a dog a tool, a friend, a member of the family? We discuss how the higher the intelligence, the more likely killing for meat is considered equivalent to murder. The difference of dog fighting versus cock fighting, or equestrian events, or how different countries view the dog."

The class is open to all disciplines, and Williams would like to see half agriculture and half non-agriculture students in the class for the different perspectives it would offer. The class is not required, but Williams feels that by keeping its elective status, students taking the class by choice will be more amenable to sharing their opinions.

He does feel, however, that the study of ethics is important. He would like to see requirements for other ethics classes in his department.

"I think ethics used to be a little more intrinsic in people and I'm not sure that it is anymore," he said.

Another concern that is addressed in Agricultural Sciences, Bioengineering, is modifying plants, vegetables or meats with genes from other organisms, usually bacteria. This can result in resistance to pests, fresher flavor, or new medicines. But there is some controversy about it, because some people feel that it is dangerous, unethical, or just plain weird.

Agricultural Sciences Chair Robert Lane said, "The biggest concern is whether they can instigate allergies. There are so many bioengineered crops and people don't even know it. There's corn, cotton and soybeans.
There are no cases of incidence of allergic reactions. With the FDA, USDA and other groups, there are enough checks and balances to make sure it is safe."

Lane feels the strangeness of the idea may be off-putting, but the methods are safe and he added that millions of dollars have been spent to ensure the safety of bioengineered foods, and the last thing the companies that sell them want is to get sued.

In the Biology department, there isn't one specific class that addresses ethics, but chair Matthew Rowe feels it's such a part of the scientific method, ethics are addressed in some way in every class.

"The scientific method instills in us, which I hope we teach to all our students, the need for objectivism, guarding against bias, awareness of sample size, integrity, and peer review, all of the things the scientific
community looks at," he said.

Many of the most-publicized ethical dilemmas of our time involve biology.

"The bioethics class as taught at my last institution was designed to get students thinking critically about issues that can be confusing. For example, at what point does life start? That is at the center of the abortion issue."

Rowe would like to see a bioethics class at SHSU, because he feels it addresses "interesting gray areas."

Requirements for ethics study are more common on campus at the graduate and doctoral levels. It is required in the graduate level in both biological sciences and the teaching fields.

In Curriculum and Instruction, students studying to be teachers at the elementary and secondary levels don't have a structured class about ethics, but ethics are certainly addressed. Department Chair Charlene Crocker said class debates center around a statewide code, which is discussed, and then teachers open the floor for
discussion by giving dilemmas and asking "what would you do?"

The Texas Code of Ethics for Teachers, which can be found at the Texas Classroom Teacher's Association Web site, addresses things such as accepting gifts which may "Impair professional judgment." (Gifts of
appreciation, given openly, are acceptable.) Student confidentiality, avoiding conduct which would negatively affect the student's ability to learn, exclusion of some students, sexual relationships or providing drugs or alcohol are also discussed.

"Because we are sending our students out into situations where they may encounter opportunities, we have conversations about what might be seen as inappropriate. We don't want any of our students to be in situations
where they can be accused falsely. They need to understand about being in the classroom. We tell them about keeping the door open, or having at least three people present in meetings," Crocker said.

She feels that it's especially important for teachers to be above reproach.

"I know we think about doctors and lawyers ethics, but for teachers, it’s an even higher standard. When you have contact with adolescents, you are teaching them how to behave, and usually by example, not as much by
content. Hopefully, sometimes they help them choose better behavioral patterns," she said.

"I think teachers have an increased responsibility to demonstrate moral and ethical behavior. It's so unfortunate when teachers don't do that. I think it tarnishes the profession and people's beliefs about it."

She doesn't speculate on what seems to have caused the recently-publicized inappropriate student-teacher relationships, but Crocker feels SHSU's adherence to the state code of ethics and sensitivity to appropriate
behavior equips future teachers to handle challenges in the classroom.

"We believe all our students are going to behave ethically, it's just a reminder and a caution," she said.

No matter what profession you go into, there will be ethical trials along the way. Whether an ethics class is required in your field of study or not, it would make a great elective, and might offer some good knowledge
to have in the future. Who knows, you might even learn something about yourself.


SHSU Media Contact: Kelly Jakubowski
March 6, 2006
Please send comments, corrections, news tips to

This page maintained by SHSU's Office of Public Relations
Director: Frank Krystyniak
Assistant Director: Julia May
Writer: Jennifer Gauntt
Located in the 115 Administration Building
Telephone: 936.294.1836; Fax: 936.294.1834