In Defence of Backyard Chickens

Josh Milburn
University of York
Suppose that animals have rights. If so, may you go down to your local farm store, buy some chicks, raise them in your backyard, and eat their eggs? You wouldn't think so. But we argue, to the contrary, that you may. Just as there are circumstances in which it's permissible to liberate a slave, even if that means paying into a corrupt system, so there are circumstances in which it's permissible to liberate chickens by buying them. Moreover, we contend that restrictions on freedom of movement can be appropriate for chickens, but not humans, because of the obvious differences between the interests of healthy, adult humans versus those of chickens who have been bred for human use. We also argue that egg consumption is permissible based on the plausible assumption that no one's rights are violated in their consumption, and so while there may sometimes be morally preferable uses for eggs, you do nothing unjust in eating them. If we're right, then the rights view doesn't imply that veganism is obligatory; rather, it implies that the constraints on how we source animal products, though highly demanding, are not so demanding that they can't be met.
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DOI 10.1111/japp.12291
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