Special Issue "Animal Ethics"

A special issue of Animals (ISSN 2076-2615). This special issue belongs to the section "Animal Ethics".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 January 2018).

Special Issue Editor

Dr. James Yeates
Website
Guest Editor
RSPCA, Wilberforce Way, Southwater, Horsham, West Sussex RH13 9RS, UK

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Ethics is a matter of practical reasoning. It concerns what decisions we make, how we act, and what kinds of people we try to be. It is an important, perhaps the most important, part of human activity. We want—and should want—to be moral.

How we treat animals is a key ethical concern. Human activity affects billions of farm, companion, laboratory and wild animals in countless deliberate and accidental interactions. While ethics has largely focused on matters about humans interact with one another, there has been a constant thread relating to questions of how we treat animals.

The research raises myriad questions about what determines an animal’s ethical status, the role of particular moral agents such as veterinarians and researchers, how we balance our duties to animals with our responsibilities to other animals and humans, and how we might defend—or challenge—our differential treatment of humans and other species. While these questions have received increasing attention over the last half century, there is limited academic or social consensus on how we should treat animals.

Original manuscripts that address any aspects of animal ethics are invited for this special issue. Topics of special interest are how animal ethics relates to animal science, the ethics of animal research, veterinary ethics and the ways in which we can encourage ethical thinking about animals and inform decision-making in practical applications.

Dr. James Yeates
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Animals is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1600 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • animal ethics
  • moral status
  • animal cognition
  • veterinary ethics

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle
A Proposal for a UK Ethics Council for Animal Policy: The Case for Putting Ethics Back into Policy Making
Animals 2018, 8(6), 88; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani8060088 - 07 Jun 2018
Cited by 3
Abstract
Substantial controversy is a consistent feature of UK animal health and welfare policy. BSE,~foot and mouth disease, bovine TB and badger culling, large indoor dairies, and wild animals in circuses are examples. Such policy issues are inherently normative; they include a substantial moral [...] Read more.
Substantial controversy is a consistent feature of UK animal health and welfare policy. BSE,~foot and mouth disease, bovine TB and badger culling, large indoor dairies, and wild animals in circuses are examples. Such policy issues are inherently normative; they include a substantial moral dimension. This paper reviews UK animal welfare advisory bodies such as the Animal Health and Welfare Board of England, the Farm Animal Welfare Committee and the Animals in Science Committee. These bodies play a key advisory role, but do not have adequate expertise in ethics to inform the moral dimension of policy. We propose an “Ethics Council for Animal Policy” to inform the UK government on policy that significantly impacts sentient species. We review existing Councils (e.g., the Nuffield Council on Bioethics and The Netherlands Council on Animal Affairs) and examine some widely used ethical frameworks (e.g., Banner’s principles and the ethical matrix). The Ethics Council for Animal Policy should be independent from government and members should have substantial expertise in ethics and related disciplines. A pluralistic six-stage ethical framework is proposed: (i) Problematisation of the policy issue, (ii) utilitarian analysis, (iii) animal rights analysis, (iv) virtue-based analysis, (v) animal welfare ethic analysis, and (vi) integrated ethical analysis. The~paper concludes that an Ethics Council for Animal Policy is necessary for just and democratic policy making in all societies that use sentient nonhuman species. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Animal Ethics)
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Open AccessArticle
Naturalness and Animal Welfare
Animals 2018, 8(4), 53; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani8040053 - 05 Apr 2018
Cited by 15
Abstract
Naturalness is considered important for animals, and is one criterion for assessing how we care for them. However, it is a vague and ambiguous term, which needs definition and assessments suitable for scientific and ethical questions. This paper makes a start on that [...] Read more.
Naturalness is considered important for animals, and is one criterion for assessing how we care for them. However, it is a vague and ambiguous term, which needs definition and assessments suitable for scientific and ethical questions. This paper makes a start on that aim. This paper differentiates the term from other related concepts, such as species-typical behaviour and wellbeing. It identifies contingent ways in which naturalness might be used, as: (i) prompts for further welfare assessment; (ii) a plausible hypothesis for what safeguards wellbeing; (iii) a threshold for what is acceptable; (iv) constraints on what improvements are unacceptable; and (v) demarcating what is not morally wrong, because of a lack of human agency. It then suggests an approach to evaluating animals’ behaviour that is quantitative, is based on reality, and which assesses naturalness by degrees. It proposes classing unaffected wild populations as natural by definition. Where animals might have been affected by humans, they should be compared to the closest population(s) of unaffected animals. This approach could allow us both to assess naturalness scientifically, and to make practical decisions about the behaviour of domestic animals. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Animal Ethics)
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Open AccessArticle
Necessary, but Not Sufficient. The Benefit Concept in the Project Evaluation of Animal Research in the Context of Directive 2010/63/EU
Animals 2018, 8(3), 34; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani8030034 - 28 Feb 2018
Cited by 4
Abstract
Directive 2010/63/EU (henceforth “Directive”) on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes mandates that every project proposal in EU member states involving procedures on living non-human vertebrates and cephalopods has to be approved in an review process, including a harm-benefit-analysis (HBA), to [...] Read more.
Directive 2010/63/EU (henceforth “Directive”) on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes mandates that every project proposal in EU member states involving procedures on living non-human vertebrates and cephalopods has to be approved in an review process, including a harm-benefit-analysis (HBA), to assess “whether the harm to the animals in terms of suffering, pain and distress is justified by the expected outcome taking into account ethical consideration and may ultimately benefit human beings, animals or the environment”. Despite the justifying relevance of “outcome” and “benefit”, it remains unclear how to understand these concepts. However, national authorities and applicants require a clear understanding of this to carry out a HBA. To analyze the underlying premises of the HBA and its consequences for the evaluation process, we introduce a heuristic to analyze the relation between “outcome”, “benefit” and “prospective benefit assessment”. We then apply the heuristic to all seven legitimate purposes for animal research stated in the Directive, namely basic research, translational or applied research, product safety, education and training, protection of the environment, preservation of species and forensic inquiries. As we show, regardless of which purpose is aimed for, applicants are hard-pressed to demonstrate tangible benefits in a prospective assessment. In the HBA, this becomes a problem since—as we argue—the only reasonable, expected and tangible outcome of research can ever be knowledge. The potential long-term benefits on the basis of gained knowledge are unforeseeable and impossible to predict. Research is bound to fall short of these proclaimed societal benefits and its credibility will suffer as long as research has to validate itself through short-term societal benefit. We propose to revise the ethical evaluation based on the HBA and we think it necessary to develop an alternative model for project evaluation that focuses on the value of knowledge as a scientific outcome as a necessary but not sufficient condition for societal benefit. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Animal Ethics)
Open AccessArticle
Speaking Up: Veterinary Ethical Responsibilities and Animal Welfare Issues in Everyday Practice
Animals 2018, 8(1), 15; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani8010015 - 22 Jan 2018
Cited by 14
Abstract
Although expectations for appropriate animal care are present in most developed countries, significant animal welfare challenges continue to be seen on a regular basis in all areas of veterinary practice. Veterinary ethics is a relatively new area of educational focus but is thought [...] Read more.
Although expectations for appropriate animal care are present in most developed countries, significant animal welfare challenges continue to be seen on a regular basis in all areas of veterinary practice. Veterinary ethics is a relatively new area of educational focus but is thought to be critically important in helping veterinarians formulate their approach to clinical case management and in determining the overall acceptability of practices towards animals. An overview is provided of how veterinary ethics are taught and how common ethical frameworks and approaches are employed—along with legislation, guidelines and codes of professional conduct—to address animal welfare issues. Insufficiently mature ethical reasoning or a lack of veterinary ethical sensitivity can lead to an inability or difficulty in speaking up about concerns with clients and ultimately, failure in their duty of care to animals, leading to poor animal welfare outcomes. A number of examples are provided to illustrate this point. Ensuring that robust ethical frameworks are employed will ultimately help veterinarians to “speak up” to address animal welfare concerns and prevent future harms. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Animal Ethics)
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Open AccessCommunication
Is a “Good Death” at the Time of Animal Slaughter an Essentially Contested Concept?
Animals 2017, 7(12), 99; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani7120099 - 14 Dec 2017
Cited by 1
Abstract
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 [...] Read more.
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. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Animal Ethics)

Review

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Open AccessReview
Justifiability and Animal Research in Health: Can Democratisation Help Resolve Difficulties?
Animals 2018, 8(2), 28; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani8020028 - 14 Feb 2018
Cited by 3
Abstract
Current animal research ethics frameworks emphasise consequentialist ethics through cost-benefit or harm-benefit analysis. However, these ethical frameworks along with institutional animal ethics approval processes cannot satisfactorily decide when a given potential benefit is outweighed by costs to animals. The consequentialist calculus should, theoretically, [...] Read more.
Current animal research ethics frameworks emphasise consequentialist ethics through cost-benefit or harm-benefit analysis. However, these ethical frameworks along with institutional animal ethics approval processes cannot satisfactorily decide when a given potential benefit is outweighed by costs to animals. The consequentialist calculus should, theoretically, provide for situations where research into a disease or disorder is no longer ethical, but this is difficult to determine objectively. Public support for animal research is also falling as demand for healthcare is rising. Democratisation of animal research could help resolve these tensions through facilitating ethical health consumerism or giving the public greater input into deciding the diseases and disorders where animal research is justified. Labelling drugs to disclose animal use and providing a plain-language summary of the role of animals may help promote public understanding and would respect the ethical beliefs of objectors to animal research. National animal ethics committees could weigh the competing ethical, scientific, and public interests to provide a transparent mandate for animal research to occur when it is justifiable and acceptable. Democratic processes can impose ethical limits and provide mandates for acceptable research while facilitating a regulatory and scientific transition towards medical advances that require fewer animals. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Animal Ethics)

Other

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Open AccessCommentary
Exploring the Gaps in Practical Ethical Guidance for Animal Welfare Considerations of Field Interventions and Innovations Targeting Dogs and Cats
Animals 2018, 8(2), 19; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani8020019 - 27 Jan 2018
Cited by 1
Abstract
Domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) and cats (Felis silvestris catus) are common species targeted by nongovernmental or intergovernmental organizations, veterinarians and government agencies worldwide, for field interventions (e.g., population management, rabies vaccination programs) or innovations (e.g., development of technologies [...] Read more.
Domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) and cats (Felis silvestris catus) are common species targeted by nongovernmental or intergovernmental organizations, veterinarians and government agencies worldwide, for field interventions (e.g., population management, rabies vaccination programs) or innovations (e.g., development of technologies or pharmaceuticals to improve animal welfare). We have a moral responsibility to ensure that the conduct of this work is humane for dogs or cats, and to consider the human communities in which the animals live. Ethical review is widely accepted as being integral to responsible practice, and it is fundamental to good science that underpins innovation. Despite the necessity of field interventions or innovations to advance the welfare of individuals or populations of animals, we found a lack of specific guidance and review processes to help navigate ethical dilemmas surrounding the conduct of such work. This can be detrimental to the wellbeing of animals and their human communities. Here we identify the gaps in existing ethical frameworks (specifically application of Reduction and Refinement principles, challenges of obtaining meaningful informed consent with variations in the quality of human-animal relationships, and limited resources regarding considerations of local stakeholders), and outline the need for additional tools to promote ethical conduct in the field. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Animal Ethics)
Open AccessFeature PaperCommentary
The Road to Hell Is Paved with Good Intentions: Why Harm–Benefit Analysis and Its Emphasis on Practical Benefit Jeopardizes the Credibility of Research
Animals 2017, 7(9), 70; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani7090070 - 11 Sep 2017
Cited by 6
Abstract
It is our concern that European Union Directive 2010/63/EU with its current project evaluation of animal research in the form of a harm–benefit analysis may lead to an erosion of the credibility of research. The HBA assesses whether the inflicted harm on animals [...] Read more.
It is our concern that European Union Directive 2010/63/EU with its current project evaluation of animal research in the form of a harm–benefit analysis may lead to an erosion of the credibility of research. The HBA assesses whether the inflicted harm on animals is outweighed by potential prospective benefits. Recent literature on prospective benefit analysis prioritizes “societal benefits” that have a foreseeable, positive impact on humans, animals, or the environment over benefit in the form of knowledge. In this study, we will argue that whether practical benefits are realized is (a) impossible to predict and (b) exceeds the scope and responsibility of researchers. Furthermore, we believe that the emphasis on practical benefits has the drawback of driving researchers into speculation on the societal benefit of their research and, therefore, into promising too much, thereby leading to a loss of trust and credibility. Thus, the concepts of benefit and benefit assessment in the HBA require a re-evaluation in a spirit that embraces the value of knowledge in our society. The generation of scientific knowledge has been utilised to great benefit for humans, animals, and the environment. The HBA, as it currently stands, tends to turn this idea upside down and implies that research is of value only if the resulting findings bring about immediate societal benefit. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Animal Ethics)
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