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Outlining a conception of animal welfare for organic farming systems

By V. Lund, H. Rocklinsberg

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The concept of animal welfare refers to the animal's quality of life. The choice of definition always reflects some basic valuation. This makes a particular conception of welfare value-dependent. Also, the animal husbandry system reflects certain values or aims. The values reflected in the chosen conception of animal welfare ought to correspond to values aimed for in the husbandry system. The IFOAM Basic Standards and other writings dealing with organic animal husbandry should be taken as a departure point for a discussion of how to interpret the conception of welfare in organic farming systems. The conception of welfare is related to two core values in the organic agriculture movement. These core values should be considered in terms of (1) aim for holistic view and (2) aim for sustainability. A third, implicit core value, based on bio- and ecocentric views: (3) respect for nature is needed as a supplement to these two core values. There are important implications of these core values for an "organic" conception of animal welfare and for confronting two dilemmas due to conflicting interests. Comparisons among the three commonly used welfare definitions will show the superiority of the third approach, which can provide an outline for a conception of animal welfare more suitable for organic farming systems. This outline combines a holistic ecocentric approach with respect for the individual animal, and it can be used as the basis for a complex definition with emphasis on natural behaviour. Such a systematic approach considers welfare in relation to different systemic levels. The systemic view also offers possibilities for resolving the dilemmas in new ways.

Date 2001
Publication Title Journal of Agricultural & Environmental Ethics
Volume 14
Issue 4
Pages 391-424
ISBN/ISSN 1187-7863
DOI 10.1023/A:1013049601079
Language English
Author Address Department of Animal Environment and Health, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, P.O. Box 234, SE-532 23 Skara, Sweden.
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal husbandry
  2. Animal rights
  3. Animal welfare
  4. Ecological agriculture
  5. Ethics
  6. organic culture
  7. organic farming
  8. peer-reviewed
  9. systems approach
  1. peer-reviewed