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Animals 2017, 7(12), 99; doi:10.3390/ani7120099

Is a “Good Death” at the Time of Animal Slaughter an Essentially Contested Concept?

Manitoba Agriculture, 545 University Crescent, Winnipeg, MB R3T 5S6, Canada
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 28 October 2017 / Revised: 7 December 2017 / Accepted: 13 December 2017 / Published: 14 December 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Animal Ethics)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [260 KB, uploaded 14 December 2017]

Simple Summary

The question of how to kill animals for food has persisted unresolved in the Anglo-American and European social and political discourse for more than a century. Scientific informed narrative has been directed at “documenting” the experience of the slaughtered animal in the last few seconds of life. Other narratives include wide social informed narratives of cultural, historical and religious meanings of food. Slaughter by rapid exsanguination is examined as an “essentially contested” concept as a response to the resiliency of this question in modern society.


The phrase “essentially contested concept” (ECC) entered the academic literature in 1956 in an attempt to better characterize certain contentious concepts of political theory. Commonly identified examples of contested concepts are morality, religion, democracy, science, nature, philosophy, and certain types of creative products such as the novel and art. The structure proposed to identify an ECC has proven useful in a wide variety of deliberative discourse in the social, political, and religious arenas where seemingly intractable but productive debates are found. Where a strongly held moral position is contradicted by law, a portion of the citizenry see the law as illegitimate and do not feel compelled to respect it. This paper will attempt to apply the analytic structure of ECC to the concept of animal wellbeing at the time of slaughter specifically a “good death.” The results of this analysis supports an understanding that the current slaughter debate is a disagreement in moral belief and normative moral theory. The parties to the dispute have differing visions of the “good.” The method of slaughter is not an essentially contested concept where further discourse is likely to result in a negotiated resolution. The position statements of veterinary organizations are used as an example of current discourse. View Full-Text
Keywords: Shechita; Dhabīḥah; essentially contested concept; animal ethics; veterinary ethics; humane slaughter; religious freedom; food ethics Shechita; Dhabīḥah; essentially contested concept; animal ethics; veterinary ethics; humane slaughter; religious freedom; food ethics
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

ulAin, Q.; Whiting, T.L. Is a “Good Death” at the Time of Animal Slaughter an Essentially Contested Concept? Animals 2017, 7, 99.

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