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Caring animals and the ways we wrong them

By J. Benz-Schwarzburg, B. Wrage

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Many nonhuman animals have the emotional capacities to form caring relationships that matter to them, and for their immediate welfare. Drawing from care ethics, we argue that these relationships also matter as objectively valuable states of affairs. They are part of what is good in this world. However, the value of care is precarious in human-animal interactions. Be it in farming, research, wildlife ‘management’, zoos, or pet-keeping, the prevention, disruption, manipulation, and instrumentalization of care in animals by humans is ubiquitous. We criticize a narrow conception of welfare that, in practice, tends to overlook non-experiential forms of harm that occur when we interfere with caring animals. Additionally, we point out wrongs against caring animals that are not just unaccounted for but denied by even an expansive welfare perspective: The instrumentalization of care and caring animals in systems of use can occur as a harmless wrong that an approach purely focused on welfare may, in fact, condone. We should therefore adopt an ethical perspective that goes beyond welfare in our dealings with caring animals.

Date 2023
Publication Title Biol Philos
Volume 38
Issue 4
Pages 25
ISBN/ISSN 0169-3867 (Print)0169-3867
DOI 10.1007/s10539-023-09913-1
Language English
Author Address Vienna, Austria Messerli Research Institute, University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna. GRID: grid.6583.8. ISNI: 0000 0000 9686 6466
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal welfare
  2. Empathy
  3. Ethics
  4. open access
  1. open access