Evaluating Longevity as a Farm Animal Welfare Indicator

Food Ethics 9 (1):1-13 (2023)
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In assessing the welfare of dairy cows and laying hens, longevity has recently been introduced as an indicator. This paper presents recent attempts to transfer the normative power of longevity to non-human animals and evaluates this choice systematically. It first shows that the normative power of longevity can be justified by utilitarianism but not by rights-based approaches. The case of the ban to kill day-old chicks in Germany is then used to show that public opinion leans neither to the utilitarian approach nor to the rights-based one but draws a firm line between killing animals before and after reaching an adult age. This may be not so much a desire for longevity among farmed animals but a first sign of empathy that may transform our relationship with farmed animals.



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