Science, Animal Ethics and the Law

Publication Type:
Book Section
Year of Publication:
J. M. Verrinder, N. McGrath, C. J. C. Phillips
Animal Law and Welfare - International Perspectives
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1534-6781 978-3-319-26818-7; 978-3-319-26816-3

Within the paradigm of the desirability of an age of plenty, science has delivered a rapid expansion in animal production by changing the living standards, morphology and physiology of animals. While various philosophers have espoused more compassionate and just treatment of animals for at least twenty centuries, it is only in recent times that animal welfare research has evolved, providing evidence to inform standards and legal requirements and meet public expectations about the treatment of animals. However this science has struggled to maintain its independence. Its focus has been on the physical impacts of painful procedures, though more recently there has been a growth in studies on animals’ emotions, both negative and positive. While it is important to determine how animals think, feel and experience pain and pleasure, ethics should be central to all these investigations, and the resulting decisions. There has been confusion about what ethics means and how it can contribute to decision making in relation to animal ethics issues. With little ethics research and no unified ethics competencies in animal-related professions, a narrow focus on legislated codes of practice and relativist or pluralist approaches to ethical frameworks are often used. This chapter explains how animal ethics can be addressed more purposefully as the science of morality regarding humans’ treatment of animals, with a structured approach to moral development based on moral psychology.


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