Sunday, April 12

Animal Production Science

I wrote my short essay on animal welfare, production science, and the ethics involved. Bernard E. Rolling has written several books about the topic of animal welfare for animals used for food. Although he makes some interesting claims, I do not agree with him. A point he makes in Rolling’s Theory of Animal Welfare and Its Ethical Implications I find very radical and unfair to state. He says “The emerging social ethics in the US has not been transferred from a concern about companion animals and animals used in research to farm animals in intensive production systems because the public has not become fully aware of these conditions and how they affect the animals subjected to them. (Hayes, 2008)”
The animal production industry is terrible at informing the public, so I feel it is detrimental that industries push their facts more and educate people. For example, dairy cows have been bred to produce eighty plus gallons of milk a day so that milk production will satisfy the demands of the American population. The population demands that we have a mass amount of milk and also save our land and keep methane production down.
I believe that the animal production industry is doing everything in their power to make sure the welfare of their animals is being cared for as well as researching deeper into progressive technology to make sure that production animals are healthy and happy. It is a benefit to both humans and animals if the animals are taken care of and that no harm is done to them. As more and more research is performed more and more management skills, medicines, and facilities will be able to increase the welfare of our livestock.


  1. Peter Singer renowned for his utilitarian views on animal rights following his now famous 1975 book Animal Liberation in which he speaks of maximizing interests or Happiness is very closely related to the topic, therefore I have summarized his views and arguments here:-

    Some terminologies used by Peter Singer:
    On "Person" - someone who is:
    Aware of ones existence over time
    Aware enough that they are same being that was previously living and can expect to live into the future.
    Therefore (he concludes), “Most humans are persons but none are born persons, newborn infants are not persons and some non-human animals are persons but not all non-human animals are persons"

    Singer's supportive argument by examples:
    Chimpanzees who are aware of their existence over time are non-humans that can be considered persons.
    Adult humans who lack (or have lost) the mental capacity to think of past or future (as their own) are no longer persons but they may have been persons and we may wish to respect the wishes they had when they were persons.

    Application of this definition to moral philosophy and ethics:
    In the specific context of killing, killing of a person who can envisage his/her past & future and hence the want of living is morally wrong compared to someone who has no wishes for the future. But the more important as singer points out is not the question of killing but the question of suffering.

    On "Speciesism" –
    Taking species as a determininat of its moral status and giving less weight of interest to those who are not members of our species just because they are not members of our species and not looking at their individual characeristics, capacities etc... Just as some animals have greater senses than humans (eg. dog-smell, eagle-sight), it is not impossible to think of non-humans that may have greater sense of suffering than humans. Hence, it should not be a rule of thumb that humans suffers more and human suffering matters more just because it is a human being.

    While talking about maximizing the interest of all sentient beings Singer mentions that there a cases where humans inflict more harm than the benefits we get out of it a clear cut example being factory farming where animals for their entire lives are miserable unable to satisfy themselves physically, socially or psychologically even in terms of basic needs. Given these sufferings supporters of factory farming argue that we humans benefit by getting cheaper food. He also mentions that depending upon particulars such as being a good shooter and a hunter, hunting wild animals for food is more acceptable than getting meat from the supermarket.

  2. While I do agree that the animal production industry is terrible at public disclosure, I believe it’s an overstatement to conclude that they are doing everything in their power to protect the welfare of the animal. The supply is still meeting the demand and in today’s society it is unacceptable for grocers to run out of product. Perhaps we need an overhaul of our production philosophy. I spent several months in Europe travelling and encountered many areas that received one shipment of food per day. If you didn’t shop at a reasonable time of day then you may not be able to buy certain items. Of course, the only produce that was available was seasonal but the system works and the public respected it. The demand outweighed the supply but it wasn’t a big deal. I appreciate being able to buy whatever I want, whenever I want it, but the supply in this country seems to be gratuitous.
    I don’t see that pumping farm animals full of antibiotics to reduce infection is protecting the welfare of the animals; it’s protecting the welfare of the people. Animal husbandry has reached new levels because of the disease risk to human beings. Ease of manufacturing and production has trumped the welfare of the animals tenfold. Chickens without feathers and beaks, cows being fed slaughterhouse byproducts, genetic engineering, overcrowding, over-milking, over medicating with antibiotics creating antibiotic resistant organisms, and the list goes on. The free-range and organic market has recently become very popular as a result of these despicable practices. We are historically bad at fixing problems that we create, especially when industry is involved. I have high hopes for the future of production and animal welfare, but only because public opinion has shifted towards supporting better practices. If we relied on industrial manufacturers to self regulate we may as well do nothing at all.

  3. Here is more of my practical response than a philosophically just one. For the most part I don’t think that everything is being done to protect the welfare of the animals, however, I don’t think that they are being treated poorly. First off, these animals are there to serve our beneficial purposes, to provide low cost food. This allows us to eat cheap meats and eggs, and to drink cheap milk. Without these farms many people could not afford to purchase and consume these items. My second point is what kind of life did these animals live before we domesticated them? I look at it as a trade off, since we feed, water and shelter them; they provide us some sort of benefit as well.

    I believe that we should continue to try to improve the quality of lives that these animals live; however, we should remember that they are there to benefit human lives.


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