An ethical foundation for careful animal husbandry

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Current practices in intensive animal production increasingly raise questions with respect to animal ethics both among the public in Europe and in political circles. This paper integrates three areas of philosophical views in order to formulate a general ethical position with respect to animal husbandry. The first area regards the question to what type of beings animals are. Secondly, an evaluative model of agrarian practices is employed in order to obtain a better perception on the place of animals in animal husbandry. In these two lines of thinking, reformational philosophy from the school of Dooyeweerd is explicitly employed. In the third view, current thinking regarding normative ethics, in general, and animal ethics, in particular, is utilized to elaborate on the ethical aspect of the practice of animal husbandry. It is argued that the major ethical principles for evaluating the manner in which animals are cared for and treated in animal husbandry are the concepts of the ‘intrinsic value’ of animals, animal welfare, and the principle of care, the latter being the core principle of the ethical aspect. On the basis of the literature, these three concepts are elaborated consistent with reformational philosophy. This leads to an integrated interpretation of an ethically correct practice of animal husbandry.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-63
JournalNJAS Wageningen Journal of Life Sciences
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • welfare
  • agriculture


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