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The Good Life, the Good Death: Companion Animals and Euthanasia

By Eva Meijer

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In this paper, I investigate the relevance of a relational approach to nonhuman animal euthanasia, focusing on companion animals. Recent scholarship in animal ethics, political philosophy and different fields of animal studies argues for viewing other animals as subjects, instead of as objects of study. Seeing other animals as subjects with their own views on life, with whom humans have different relations and with whom communication is possible, has ethical, practical, and epistemological implications for thinking about nonhuman animal euthanasia. In what follows I aim to shed light on some of these implications, focusing on euthanasia in the case of companion animals. I first discuss nonhuman animal practices surrounding death and challenge the view that humans have a privileged experience and understanding of death. In the following section I further zoom in on the relationship between anthropocentrism and assessing the harm of death for nonhuman animals. This provides a starting point for the next section, in which I compare human and nonhuman animal euthanasia in The Netherlands. To conceptualize how we can develop new procedures for nonhuman animal euthanasia I then turn to interspecies intersubjectivity, and humans’ understanding of other animals. In the final section I discuss the question of nonhuman animal euthanasia as inextricably linked to the question of how to live well with other animals, on an ontological and practical level. I end by discussing the practical implications of this, and briefly investigate how humans can begin to develop new practices surrounding death, together with other animals.


Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Date 2018
Publication Title Animal Studies Journal
Volume 7
Issue 1
Pages 205-225
ISBN/ISSN 2201-3008
Language English
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal roles
  2. Animal welfare
  3. Euthanasia
  4. open access
  5. Pets and companion animals
  1. open access