Univ.Ass. Dr. Judith Benz-Schwarzburg

Judith Benz-Schwarzburg has been a Senior Researcher at the Messerli Institute since 2011 and leads an FWF-funded research project entitled 'Morality in Animals: What It Means and Why It Matters'.

She studied linguistics, German literature, philosophy and ethics at the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen, Germany (1999–2005). Her diploma thesis dealt with mental expressions in child language, indicating an early development of theory of mind in 2-4-year-old children. After her graduation Judith Benz-Schwarzburg completed her doctoral thesis as a member of the Research Training Group "Bioethics" at the International Centre for Ethics in the Sciences and Humanities of the University of Tübingen – an interdisciplinary postgraduate school financed by the German Research Foundation (DFG). Her thesis dealt with socio-cognitive abilities in animals (namely with culture, language and theory of mind) and their ethical relevance. The thesis was published 2012 within the book series Tierrechte – Menschenpflichten of Harald Fischer Publishing. Since then the book has been awarded two prizes, the German Research Prize (Deutscher Studienpreis, 2nd place) in 2013 and the PhD Award of the University of Tübingen in 2012. A translation into English with Brill was published in October 2019: brill.com/view/title/35289 1
In addition to her PhD project, Judith Benz-Schwarzburg was a Fellow of the Forum Scientiarum of the University of Tübingen, where she participated in the 2006/2007 study program examining the biological and cultural foundations of human consciousness. In 2010, she gained a certificate from Cambridge University for a course on Animal Welfare Science, Ethics and Law.

Link to personal website in German 2

Research interests

  • Animal ethics and animal cognition (culture, language, theory of mind, morality in animals)
  • Zoo ethics
  • Bioethics
  • Representation of animals in picture books and movies
  • Animal welfare vs. animal rights / the personhood debate
  • Great ape and dolphin conservation

Research projects

Selected publications

For a full list of publications, please click here 15.


Since 2011 Judith Benz-Schwarzburg has been teaching regularly at the Vetmeduni Vienna:

  • Practical Course on Ethics and Human-Animal Studies (IMHAI)
  • Current Debates in Applied Animal Ethics (IMHAI)

Additional lecturing at:

  • The University of Tübingen
  • The University of Vienna
  • KTU Linz
  • within the Universitäts Lehrgang `Tiere als Therapie’, Vetmeduni Vienna
  • for the Tierpflegerschule, Vetmeduni Vienna

Judith Benz-Schwarzburg will be on maternity leave from October 2019 to October 2020 (replacement: Birte Wrage, MA).


Dr.phil. Judith Benz-Schwarzburg
T +43 1 25077-2654
E-Mail to Judith Benz-Schwarzburg


Human-Animal News

More information about events and publications

Human-Animal News 16