The Lives of Animals: Lesson 4 English, Yr 10

Animals and Ethics

Information to Teachers

It is assumed that students have read the text prior to completing the suggested activities. 

Lesson Overview

In this lesson, students will investigate the various ethical considerations and arguments present within the text. By identifying the views of different characters, in addition to discussing and reflecting upon their own perspectives, students will develop a deeper understanding of the complexities surrounding animal ethics.

Time Allocation

50-100 minutes or 1-2 lessons.

Primary Resource

Voiceless Resources

Other Resources 

Inquiry Questions

  • What does it mean to make ethical choices when we speak about animals, and how do we decide what’s ‘right’ or ‘wrong’?
  • Why is it important to respect varying perspectives on morally serious issues?

Suggested Learning Activities


The novel is a work of fiction but at the same time it is also a philosophical investigation into the complicated area of animal rights.

  • What is your understanding of the terms: animal rights and animal welfare?
  • What is the study of ethics?

Refer to the Key Concepts and Glossary for definitions.



  1. Begin with a general discussion about where to find factual information to support an argument. What types of texts and which sources would students consult?
  2. What values and judgements do students apply to different texts and why?
  3. Ask students to review the post-lecture dinner scene (pp. 38-45) and identify different arguments supporting and refuting the eating of animals.

Students can choose to use the Dinner Conversations Worksheet for this task. 

Some points for students to consider:

  • How is the scene constructed?
  • Which characters comment on each side of the argument? Do they switch positions? What does this reveal about the topic of conversation?
  • What language devices are used? How does these influence the reader? Is it more/less emotional?



Discussing Ethics.

Divide students into small groups of 3-4 to discuss the following statements and quotations.

It’s a good idea to give students some thinking/processing time before launching into the discussion.

  • “Are you not expecting too much of humankind when you ask us to live without species exploitation, without cruelty?”. (pg. 55).
  • Moral conviction is the only thing that determines our behaviour when it comes to eating animals.
  • Elizabeth Costello is trying to make her audiences feel bad.
  • Costello uses intertextuality in order to persuade her listeners.
  • Costello’s comparisons cross the line.
  • “Our compassion is very thinly spread.” (pg. 59).
  • “Children all over the world consort quite naturally with animals. They don’t see any dividing line.” (pg. 61).
  • The Lives of Animals drives home how difficult it can be for morally serious people to sympathise with, or even understand each other’s perspectives.” (Amy Gutmann’s ‘Introduction’, pg. 7).



On pg. 53 Costello declares, ‘We need factories of death; we need factory animals. Chicago showed us the way; it was from the Chicago stockyards that the Nazis learned how to process bodies”.

Costello makes numerous mentions of ‘factory farms’ in her lectures. Factory farming and people’s perspectives towards it vary widely. Students to share their understanding and thoughts about this method of intensive animal agriculture with a partner.

Recommended Reading:



  1. Students reflect on the Chicago Slaughterhouse, and in particular how school students were taken to see animals slaughtered. With new bio-security laws in place the general public can no longer visit factory farms.
  2. Hold a quick discussion on the benefits and/or consequences of the general public being able to visit factory farms.

Students compose an opinion piece or a blog on one of the following topics:

  • A 21st Century education should include an understanding of where meat comes from.
  • Young people need to be given the facts on farmed animal meat production.
  • Alternatives to factory farming, such as free-range, need to be encouraged by governments.


In 1906 a writer and journalist named Upton Sinclair wrote a novel titled, The Jungle based on the lives of workers and the conditions of the Chicago Stockyards. The novel exposed the meat packing industry and the welfare violations for humans and animals.

  1. Instruct students to read about the article; 7 things you may not know about The Jungle.
  2. Then respond to the following question:

 Do writers/journalists have a moral obligation to report the truth to society?

Up next, Lesson 5 – Reflections

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