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Industrial farm animal production: a comprehensive moral critique

By J. Rossi, S. A. Garner

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Over the past century, animal agriculture in the United States has transformed from a system of small, family farms to a largely industrialized model-often known as 'industrial farm animal production' (IFAP). This model has successfully produced a large supply of cheap meat, eggs and dairy products, but at significant costs to animal welfare, the environment, the risk of zoonotic disease, the economic and social health of rural communities, and overall food abundance. Over the past 40 years, numerous critiques of IFAP have been published, for both academic and non-academic audiences, mostly focusing on our obligations to animals. Here we offer a comprehensive critique of IFAP, focusing not only on our obligations to animals, but also important environmental, social, economic, and public health concerns. Our cumulative argument proceeds in five steps: (1) we briefly review the structure and key characteristics of IFAP; (2) we review the adverse effects of IFAP; (3) we review the historical development and positive rationale for IFAP; (4) we summarize previous moral critiques of IFAP, as well as defenses of it; and (5) we offer a moral critique of IFAP based on the common morality, and in particular on a principle of nonmaleficence, which we take to be the least controversial argument.

Publication Title Journal of Agricultural & Environmental Ethics
Volume 27
Issue 3
Pages 479-522
ISBN/ISSN 0893-4282
Publisher Springer
DOI 10.1007/s10806-014-9497-8
Language English
Author Address Department of Community Health and Prevention, Drexel University School of Public Health, 3215 Market Street, 4th Floor, MS457, Philadelphia, PA 19104,
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Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Agriculture
  2. Animal husbandry
  3. Animal production
  4. Animal roles
  5. Animal welfare
  6. APEC countries
  7. Countries
  8. Developed countries
  9. Economics
  10. Environment
  11. Ethics
  12. Health
  13. Hygiene
  14. Impact
  15. Livestock farming
  16. morality
  17. natural resources
  18. North America
  19. OECD countries
  20. public
  21. Reviews
  22. social impact
  23. Social psychology and social anthropology
  24. United States of America
  25. Zoonoses