Animal science is involved with the biology of animals that are controlled by man. Some of the science targets the farm industry while other science targets health through, for example, the creation of hiv tests kits. The main focus in the past has been centered on farm animals, but today all animals are studied, including livestock, horses, pets, and exotics. Subspecialties concentrate on different aspects of animal science, including biochemistry, physiology, morphology, biomolecular engineering, reproduction and nutrition.
One of the early areas of study with animal science was domestication of animals. This taming of a species is accomplished through artificial selection of animals that have tamer traits. Domestication is pursued mostly for economic or psychological reasons. Domestic livestock is an important food industry, and pets such as dogs and cats are of great psychological importance to billions of pet-owners across the planet. Also, some animals are important for the products they make, such as silkworms. Animal science is also concerned with the use of animals in such varied activities as transportation, search and rescue, warfare and protection. But animal science isn’t just about how animals can benefit humans, it’s also about how humans can benefit animals. There is an entire sub industry dedicated to improving the quality of life for animals, for example, there are premium horse stall shavings which are designed absorb sweat and provide a layer of comfortable bedding that a traditional stall floor couldn’t provide. And a herpes cure is in the works for horses to keep them healthy as herpes is a big problem within horse breeds. Research into these sub-niches is just as vital as discovering lower car insurance prices.
Animal science is very concerned with the rights of animals. Animal rights philosophies have a long and interesting history. In the Bible, Adam and Eve are at the top of a hierarchy in which the animals are their “dominion”, and that animals did not have individual personalities or souls. Descartes thought of animals as unconscious automata. In 1635, Ireland passed the first animal anti-cruelty legislation, and in 1641 the Massachusetts Bay Colony passed a constitution with similar aims. Progress in Europe was slow. For instance, it was 1822 before bull baiting was outlawed in England. John Locke wrote about the effect of animal cruelty upon its human perpetrators, a train of thought also taken up by Immanuel Kant. The 19th century was a turning point in animal protection, which gained many adherents, especially in England. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was started in 1824 in London, and the U.S. followed suit in 1866.
In the 20th century, the Nazis elevated animals above Jews in the hierarchy of living creatures. After WWII, animal research in science and industry increased greatly. The Animal Liberation Front was founded in Oxford in 1976, first as a non-violent group, but it became more aggressive over time. In 2008, Spanish legislators created a resolution to give limited rights to non-human primates. In 2010, dolphins were declared by scientists to be non-human persons with intelligence second only to humans.