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Can natural behavior be cultivated? The farm as local human/animal culture

By P. Segerdahl

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Although the notion of natural behaviour occurs in many policy-making and legal documents on animal welfare, no consensus has been reached concerning its definition. This paper argues that one reason why the notion resists unanimously accepted definition is that natural behaviour is not properly a biological concept, although it aspires to be one, but rather a philosophical tendency to perceive animal behaviour in accordance with certain dichotomies between nature and culture, animal and human, original orders and invented artifacts. The paper scrutinizes the philosophy of natural behaviour as it developed in the organic movement in response to a perceived contrast between industrialized and traditional agriculture. There are two reasons for focusing on the organic movement: (i) the emphasis on "the natural" is most accentuated there and has a long history, (ii) everyday life on organic farms presupposes human/animal interplay, which conflicts with the philosophical tendency to separate nature from culture. This mismatch between theory and practice helps us see why, and how, the philosophy of natural behaviour needs to be reconsidered. The paper proposes that we understand farms as local human/animal cultures, and asks what we can mean my natural behaviour in such contexts. Since domestic animals adapt to agricultural environments via interaction with caretakers, such interplay is analysed as "hub" in these animals' natural behaviour.

Date 2007
Publication Title Journal of Agricultural & Environmental Ethics
Volume 20
Issue 2
Pages 167-193
ISBN/ISSN 1187-7863
DOI 10.1007/s10806-006-9028-3
Language English
Author Address Department of Public Health and Caring Sciences, Center for Bioethics at Karolinska Institutet, Uppsala University, Uppsala Science Park, SE-751 85, Uppsala, Sweden.
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal rights
  3. Animal welfare
  4. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  5. Bioethics
  6. Domestic animals
  7. Ecological agriculture
  8. organic culture
  9. organic farming
  10. peer-reviewed
  11. Philosophy
  12. Social psychology and social anthropology
  1. peer-reviewed