The ethical implications of the human–animal bond on the farm
Arguably, grounding animal ethics in traditional moral theories such as utilitarianism or rights-based ethics is impoverished since they emphasise impartiality and abstractness in our ethical deliberations at the expense of giving proper weight to special relationships we have with other individuals. Here, I explore the human–animal bond as a starting point for animal ethics, and focus on the resulting moral implications of this bond on farm animal welfare. The human–animal bond revisits values inherent in the nature of animal husbandry and is also influenced by philosophical ethics of caring. Farmers or stockpersons who form close bonds with their animals make an implicit promise to discharge duties to their animal companions above and beyond respectful treatment as sentient beings. Scientific study suggests that interpersonal human–animal relationships may translate to better care and consideration for farmed animals, promoting both better animal welfare and on-farm productivity. Acknowledging the existence of human–animal bonds on the farm and encouraging farmers and animal handlers not to shy away from forming bonds with their animals is recommended. Farmers, stockpersons, and contract-farmers for agribusinesses should be given an ethical voice to lodge grievances about how farmed animals are treated and be encouraged to participate in discussions on farming practices and animal welfare standards. They should also be educated on gains made through scientific enquiry regarding the capacities and needs of animals as well as on welfare advances.
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