The Ethics of Touch and the Importance of Nonhuman Relationships in Animal Agriculture

Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 34 (2):1-20 (2021)
  Copy   BIBTEX


Animal agriculture predominantly involves farming social animals. At the same time, the nature of agriculture requires severely disrupting, eliminating, and controlling the relationships that matter to those animals, resulting in harm and unhappiness for them. These disruptions harm animals, both physically and psychologically. Stressed animals are also bad for farmers because stressed animals are less safe to handle, produce less, get sick more, and produce poorer quality meat. As a result, considerable efforts have gone into developing stress-reduction methods. Many of these attempt to replicate behaviours or physiological responses that develop or constitute bonding between animals. In other words, humans try to mitigate or ameliorate the damage done by preventing and undermining intraspecies relationships. In doing so, the wrong of relational harms is compounded by an instrumentalisation of trust and care. The techniques used are emblematic of the welfarist approach to animal ethics. Using the example of gentle touching in the farming of cows for beef and dairy, the paper highlights two types of wrong. First, a wrong done in the form of relational harms, and second, a wrong done by instrumentalising relationships of care and trust. Relational harms are done to nonhuman animals, whilst instrumentalisation of care and trust indicates an insensitivity to morally salient features of the situation and a potential character flaw in the agents that carry it out.



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 89,718

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

Betraying Animals.Steve Cooke - 2019 - The Journal of Ethics 23 (2):183-200.
Duties to Companion Animals.Steve Cooke - 2011 - Res Publica 17 (3):261-274.
Vulnerable Subjects? The Case of Nonhuman Animals in Experimentation.Jane Johnson - 2013 - Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 10 (4):497-504.
Learning Ethics From Our Relationships with Animals.Maurice Hamington - 2008 - International Journal of Applied Philosophy 22 (2):177-188.
The Wild Side of Animal Domestication.Nerissa Russell - 2002 - Society and Animals 10 (3):285-302.
Varieties of Harm to Animals in Industrial Farming.Matthew C. Halteman - 2011 - Journal of Animal Ethics 1 (2):122-131.
Industrial Farming is Not Cruel to Animals.Timothy Hsiao - 2017 - Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 30 (1):37-54.
Sustainable agriculture is humane, humane agriculture is sustainable.Michael C. Appleby - 2005 - Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 18 (3):293-303.
Animal Rights and the Duty to Harm: When to be a Harm Causing Deontologist.C. E. Abbate - 2020 - Journal for Ethics and Moral Philosophy 3 (1):5-26.
Does Breeding a Bulldog Harm It?Clare Palmer - 2012 - Animal Welfare 21:157-166.
Permissible Use and Interdependence: Against Principled Veganism.Katherine Wayne - 2013 - Journal of Applied Philosophy 30 (2):160-175.


Added to PP

18 (#704,014)

6 months
4 (#314,006)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Steve Cooke
University of Leicester

Citations of this work

Caring animals and care ethics.Birte Wrage - 2022 - Biology and Philosophy 37.
Assessing measures of animal welfare.Heather Browning - 2022 - Biology and Philosophy 37 (4):1-24.

Add more citations

References found in this work

Trust and antitrust.Annette Baier - 1986 - Ethics 96 (2):231-260.
Animals and why they matter.Mary Midgley - 1983 - Athens: University of Georgia Press.
Four essays on liberty.Isaiah Berlin - 1969 - Oxford University Press.
All Animals Are Equal.Peter Singer - 1989 - In Tom Regan & Peter Singer (eds.), Animal Rights and Human Obligations. Oxford University Press. pp. 215--226.

View all 30 references / Add more references