Animal agriculture: Symbiosis, culture, or ethical conflict? [Book Review]

Several writers on animal ethics defend the abolition of most or all animal agriculture, which they consider an unethical exploitation of sentient non-human animals. However, animal agriculture can also be seen as a co-evolution over thousands of years, that has affected biology and behavior on the one hand, and quality of life of humans and domestic animals on the other. Furthermore, animals are important in sustainable agriculture. They can increase efficiency by their ability to transform materials unsuitable for human consumption and by grazing areas that would be difficult to harvest otherwise. Grazing of natural pastures is essential for the pastoral landscape, an important habitat for wild flora and fauna and much valued by humans for its aesthetic value. Thus it seems that the environment gains substantially when animals are included in sustainable agricultural systems. But what about the animals themselves? Objections against animal agriculture often refer to the disrespect for animals’ lives, integrity, and welfare in present intensive animal production systems. Of the three issues at stake, neither integrity nor animal welfare need in principle be violated in carefully designed animal husbandry systems. The main ethical conflict seems to lie in the killing of animals, which is inevitable if the system is to deliver animal products. In this paper, we present the benefits and costs to humans and animals of including animals in sustainable agriculture, and discuss how to address some of the ethical issues involved.
Keywords animal welfare  ethics  killing  sustainability  vegetarianism
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DOI 10.1007/s10806-005-4378-9
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