Farmers Engaged in Deliberative Practices; An Ethnographic Exploration of the Mosaic of Concerns in Livestock Agriculture

A plethora of ethical issues in livestock agriculture has emerged to public attention in recent decades, of which environmental and animal welfare concerns are but two, albeit prominent, themes. For livestock agriculture to be considered sustainable, somehow these interconnected themes need to be addressed. Ethical debate on these issues has been extensive, but mostly started from and focused on single issues. The views of farmers in these debates have been largely absent, or merely figured as interests, instead of being considered morally worthwhile themselves. In this paper the relevance for ethical debates of the ways farmers discuss and engage with moral concerns is explored. The variety of norms that figure in contemporary farming practices is sketched in its multifarious complexity, illustrated by ethnographic fieldwork, and systematized in terms of “orders of worth.” Reviewing the practical arguments and commitments of farmers within this framework reveals that farming practices are subject to mixed motives, in which an amalgam of types of concerns play a role. Recognition of the peculiarly entangled nature of the ethics of farming practices could counter the tendency in policy making, technological innovation, and ethical thought to compartmentalize our moral landscape. Understanding farming practice as the integration of a mosaic of concerns in the light of a variety of moral experiences would foster public appreciation of positions of farmers in debates on improving the sustainability and societal acceptability of livestock agriculture
Keywords Livestock farming  Farmers’ ethics  Ethnography  Sustainability  Convention theory
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DOI 10.1007/s10806-010-9293-z
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