Animal Welfare


Many animals raised for food live in confinement systems colloquially called “factory farms.”  Confinement systems can support some aspects of animal welfare by providing animals with veterinary care, shelter from the elements and predators, and food and water.  However, as judged by widely accepted standards of animal welfare, animals raised in confinement generally do not lead good lives.  All too often they experience discomfort, pain, injury, disease, fear, and distress. They are rarely able to express appropriate natural behaviors. These animals may be biologically productive, in the sense that they grow quickly and reproduce abundantly, but biological productivity is neither proof of nor a proxy for welfare. 
As public concern for the welfare of farm animals increases, we must engage with and make sense of diverse views about how humans should relate to animals and about what is a good life for animals. For example, some people attribute moral rights to animals and consider the use of animals for food, clothing, research, and companionship contrary to these moral rights, and thus morally wrong.  Others believe that it can be ethical for humans to use animals, but this use comes with a responsibility to take care of the animals.  So long as animal agriculture persists, we cannot ignore the ethical questions or contradictions it raises. Instead, we must critically appraise modern livestock production systems and make adjustments that will afford the animals we rely upon a higher degree of welfare.