“Ethics can make an important contribution to sustainable interaction with animals.”

Franck Meijboom appointed Professor of Sustainable Animal Stewardship

As of 15 June 2023, the Executive Board has appointed Franck Meijboom Professor of Sustainable Animal Stewardship at the Utrecht University Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. This Chair connects all themes at Veterinary Medicine, and builds a bridge between science and society.

How do we interact with animals in society in a sustainable and responsible way? That is the theme of the Chair for Sustainable Animal Stewardship, a relatively new subject that intersects with all research themes at Veterinary Medicine. The theme wants to build a bridge between academic knowledge of animals, and the needs of societal groups and organisations in dealing with (often ethical) issues in the complex relationship between humans and animals.

What does Franck Meijboom see as the most important goal of the Chair?

“There are two goals: to connect and to learn more. Connecting is about bringing together various academic disciplines and external parties which are needed to make current social and ethical issues on our interaction with animals discussable. The interaction with society is also important for this, like with dialogue. The second goal is to learn more. By means of research and education, we want to gain better insight into and control over the underlying questions and assumptions on humans and animals living together. By combining these two goals, it becomes possible to work in an interdisciplinary way and to contribute from science to current issues, such as changes in keeping livestock, the breeding of animals and the transition to research free from animal testing.”

What does this appointment mean to you?

“I see it as a special recognition that ethics are essential questions on how we as a society deal with animals and the role of Veterinary Medicine. This attention is not new. Ever since the 1990s, students of Veterinary Medicine receive education in ethics. This Chair continues to build on that foundation, but also has the goal to place ethical reflection in research and education in a broader context. For this, we closely collaborate with other disciplines and involved parties outside the university.”

The Chair is unique in the world. That is an honour, but is it also a big responsibility?

“Sustainable Animal Stewardship is indeed a unique Chair, but it is deals with issues that play a role in society on a broad scale and that also concern other groups within Utrecht University, within the Netherlands and internationally. So it is unique, but not lonely. We will (continue to) collaborate with other groups. In this collaboration, we can do justice to the complexity of the issues on human-animal interactions, and contribute to sustainable interaction with animals.”