Milking It for All It’s Worth: Unpalatable Practices, Dairy Cows and Veterinary Work?

Journal of Business Ethics 176 (4):673-688 (2022)
  Copy   BIBTEX


Viewing animals as a disposable resource is by no means novel, but does milking the cow for all its worth now represent a previously unimaginable level of exploitation? New technology has intensified milk production fourfold over the last 50 years, rendering the cow vulnerable to various and frequent clinical interventions deemed necessary to meet the demands for dairy products. A major question is whether or not the veterinary code of practice fits, or is in ethical tension, with the administration of ‘efficient’ techniques, such as artificial insemination, to enhance reproduction levels among cattle? Vets perform these interventions and their ‘success’ is measured by the maximisation of milk production, requiring perpetually pregnant cows. Our empirical research on 33 farm vets explores how their professional ethical code promising to protect the welfare of the animal ‘above all else’, is increasingly in conflict with, and subordinate to, the financial demands of clients. Since vets cannot stand outside of the productive power–knowledge relations that have intensified the consumption of animal bodily parts and secretions, we argue that a process of adiaphorization’ occurs, whereby humans become morally indifferent to cruel practices deemed necessary to our consumerist ways of life. However, this indifference reflects and reinforces a taken-for-granted anthropocentrism among vets, animal owners and the population generally. We suggest that posthumanist ideas may offer new insights for the study of human–animal relations in organisations that transcend the coercive and negative impact of discourses that deny any alternative to prevailing farm/veterinary practices. Our study has major implications in relation to climate warming and zoonotic diseases, both partly derived from our unethical relationship to animals, that are increasingly threatening our, and their, lives.



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 77,737

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Death-Free Dairy? The Ethics of Clean Milk.Josh Milburn - 2018 - Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 31 (2):261-279.
The farm as clinic: veterinary expertise and the transformation of dairy farming, 1930–1950.Abigail Woods - 2007 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 38 (2):462-487.
The Animal as Surgical Patient: a Historical Perspective in the 20 th Century.Andrew Gardiner - 2009 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 31 (3-4):355 - 376.
What's wrong with animalby-products?Gary E. Varner - 1994 - Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 7 (1):7-17.
Effect of previous stroking on reactions to a veterinary procedure.Claudia Schmied, Xavier Boivin, Sebastian Scala & Susanne Waiblinger - 2010 - Interaction Studies. Social Behaviour and Communication in Biological and Artificial Systemsinteraction Studies / Social Behaviour and Communication in Biological and Artificial Systemsinteraction Studies 11 (3):467-481.
An Overview on Ethics and Ethical Decision-Making Process in Veterinary Practice.Binoy S. Vettical - 2018 - Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 31 (6):739-749.


Added to PP

24 (#488,757)

6 months
3 (#245,622)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

References found in this work

The posthuman.Rosi Braidotti - 2013 - Malden, MA, USA: Polity Press.
Nietzsche, Genealogy, History.Michel Foucault - 1978 - In John Richardson & Brian Leiter (eds.), Nietzsche. Oxford University Press. pp. (139-164).
The Animal That Therefore I Am.Jacques Derrida - 2002 - Fordham University Press.

View all 17 references / Add more references