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Animal Welfare: Evolution and Erosion of a Moral Concept

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Abstract:

There are many definitions of animal welfare. These do not only differ in their meaning, but also in their function for making a broad concept accessible for scientific research. Lexical [dictionary] definitions establish what the common meaning is of the concept to be studied, and help to find some concrete phenomena which are related to the often vague and general descriptive terms. Explanatory definitions provide an elementary theoretical background for studying the phenomena. Operational definitions contain the parameters used in concrete measurements. In each step we reduce the concept to more measurable elements but lose other elements of the concept. In the case of animal welfare this results in an evolution of definitions which makes animal welfare more objectively assessable. But it also results in an erosion: development of a confusing diversity in parameters and a loss of the moral aspect of the concept of animal welfare. This erosion has a negative influence on political decisionmaking. It is important to recognize the possibilities and limitations of problem solving, based on 'animal welfare science'.

Keywords: ANIMAL WELFARE; DEFINITIONS; ETHICS; POLICY

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 1996

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