Animal Captivity: Justifications for Animal Captivity in the Context of Domestication

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The central question of this chapter is whether keeping animals in captivity is morally justified. Captivity could be considered inherently wrong when animals are perceived to have an interest in liberty. I argue that this is the case to a certain extent, provided that we use a less stringent notion of autonomy than we do for humans. Next, I address two possible general moral justifications for keeping animals in captivity: (1) it is in the interest of humans to keep animals in captivity and (2) it is in the interest of the animals themselves. Whether these justifications are successful is to a large extent an empirical matter. In general, however, we could say that either animals of a specific species do not have sufficient adaptive capacity to be able to deal with conditions of captivity—in which case harm to the animals’ welfare occurs—or they do have this capacity, but this means that their genetic make-up changes over the generations, and they ultimately become domesticated. This aspect of domestication raises a whole new set of questions regarding the justifiability of animal domestication. I argue that the questions raised by animal domestication cannot be completely dealt with within traditional animal ethical approaches, that take individual animals as the sole unit of moral concern. Objections that people voice regarding animal captivity and in particular regarding the often resulting domestication and interfering with an animal’s genetic make-up, are more properly directed at the species-level
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAnimal Ethics in the Age of Humans
Subtitle of host publicationBlurring Boundaries in Human-animal Relationships
EditorsB. Bovenkerk, F.W.J. Keulartz
ISBN (Electronic)9783319442068
ISBN (Print)9783319442051
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Publication series

NameThe International Library of Environmental, Agricultural and Food Ethics
ISSN (Print)1570-3010
ISSN (Electronic)2215-1737

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