The Blind Hens' Challenge: Does It Undermine the View That Only Welfare Matters in Our Dealings with Animals?

Environmental Values 23 (6):727-742 (2014)
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Abstract

Animal ethicists have recently debated the ethical questions raised by disenhancing animals to improve their welfare. Here, we focus on the particular case of breeding hens for commercial egg-laying systems to become blind, in order to benefit their welfare. Many people find breeding blind hens intuitively repellent, yet ‘welfare-only’ positions appear to be committed to endorsing this possibility if it produces welfare gains. We call this the ‘Blind Hens’ Challenge’. In this paper, we argue that there are both empirical and theoretical reasons why even those adopting ‘welfare-only’ views should be concerned about breeding blind hens. But we also argue that alternative views, which (for example) claim that it is important to respect the telos or rights of an animal, do not offer a more convincing solution to questions raised by the possibility of disenhancing animals for their own benefit

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Clare Alexandra Palmer
Texas A&M University

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