There’s this thought experiment in ethics called “the trolley problem” where you’re asked to imagine that there is an uncontrollable trolley racing down the tracks toward a group of people who are tied up and unable to move. You’re standing in front of a switch that you can pull to cause the trolley to change tracks and head in a different direction where only one person is standing on the tracks. What do you do? Stay out of it and let the trolley kill several people or pull the switch and sacrifice one person for the sake of the rest?
Imagining which decision to make in this scenario might be easy for you or it might be exhausting. But what if I asked you to go back and read it again and instead of a group of people on the first track, there’s a group of puppies…?
Again, this decision might be easy for you to make but I’m here to tell you that there’s a group of students at Canisius who would likely jump in front of the train themselves rather than make the decision about saving puppies or people. Meet the ANZOs (Canisius’ anthrozoology graduate students).
Just like students studying mathematics don’t all walk around with pocket protectors, students studying anthrozoology aren’t all more inclined to spend their evenings with wine and cats. However, we are all (perhaps born, perhaps trained) to try to value all life equally or, at the very least, value all life carefully.
Is it right to sacrifice one human life for several? One human life for several animal lives? What if the puppies on the track were the last puppies on Earth?
This type of debate plays a big role in the anthrozoology program. Canisius students are juggling impossible questions like these so that when they finally step away from classrooms and online discussion boards, they can confidently make real-world decisions that might change the future of our planet for people and animals. Pretty big deal, huh?