The Trade-Off Between Chicken Welfare and Public Health Risks in Poultry Husbandry: Significance of Moral Convictions

M. van Asselt*, E.D. Ekkel, B. Kemp, E.N. Stassen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Welfare-friendly outdoor poultry husbandry systems are associated with potentially higher public health risks for certain hazards, which results in a dilemma: whether to choose a system that improves chicken welfare or a system that reduces these public health risks. We studied the views of citizens and poultry farmers on judging the dilemma, relevant moral convictions and moral arguments in a practical context. By means of an online questionnaire, citizens (n = 2259) and poultry farmers (n = 100) judged three practical cases, which illustrate the dilemma of improving chicken welfare or reducing public health risks for Campylobacter, avian influenza and dioxin. Furthermore, they scored the importance of moral arguments and to what extend they agreed with moral convictions related to humans and chickens. Citizens were more likely than farmers to choose a system that benefits chicken welfare at the expense of public health. These different judgments could be explained by differing moral convictions and valuations of moral arguments. Judgments of citizens and farmers were associated with moral arguments and convictions, predominantly with those regarding the value of chickens and naturalness. Citizens agreed stronger with moral convictions regarding the intrinsic value of chickens and regarding naturalness than farmers did, while farmers agreed stronger with conviction regarding fairness. We argue that opinions of citizens and farmers are context-dependent, which may explain the differences between these groups. It implies that opinions of different stakeholder groups should be considered in order to achieve successful innovations in poultry husbandry, which are supported by society.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)293-319
JournalJournal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2 May 2019


  • Animal welfare
  • Moral convictions
  • Poultry husbandry
  • Public health
  • Stakeholder views


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