Animals and Their Moral Standing: A Philosophical Exploration of the Relationship Between Animals and Human Beings in Agriculture

Dissertation, Purdue University (2003)
The main focus of this dissertation is to unearth some core values from within agriculture and to introduce to animal agriculture and philosophical animal ethics an ethic of fiduciary responsibility. Traditionally, an ethic of stewardship and accountability, which celebrated the intimate interconnectedness between human communities, nature and farmed animals, served as the cornerstone of sustainable communities and sanctioned legitimate uses and humane treatment of farmed animals. In recent times, a skewed productionist paradigm has displaced traditional agricultural norms and undermined the discharge of appropriate standards and values of care. It has resulted in a general disconnect between the public and the food system, and in a diminished view of the moral status of farmed animals. "First-wave" philosophical animal ethics' undue emphases on equality, rights, and "should we" questions have occasioned polarization, alienation and little attention to address and resolve serious practical concerns in animal agriculture. "Second-wave" philosophies such as ethics of care, agrarianism and pastoralism, which embed concern regarding the moral status of animals and their plight within the larger context of the aims, values and virtues of agriculture, offer promising advances. After examining the merits of the animal rights-animal welfare debate, I offer an explication of ethics of care, pastoralism, and agrarian ethics as a corrective or supplement to our initial concerns about modern day valuing and treatment of farmed animals. Then, I tease out some institutional concerns behind the decline in animal care values and standards and offer an ethic of fiduciary responsibility as a response to address these underlying concerns in animal agriculture. Next, I look at two concerns in animal welfare and animal ethics. First, after examining the concern that death is a harm to nonhuman sentient beings, I propose some ingredients for morally permissible forms of animal husbandry. Then, I look at some concerns related to the nature of animal welfare. I argue for a positive notion of animal integrity which adds a fourth component of care to the existing tripartite framework and which lays the blueprints for a more thoroughgoing conceptual project on 'what is animal?', to be pursued elsewhere
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