Breeding Blues: An ethical evaluation of the plan to reduce calving difficulties in Danish Blue cattle – University of Copenhagen

Animalethics > New publications > Breeding blues

05 July 2018

Breeding Blues: An ethical evaluation of the plan to reduce calving difficulties in Danish Blue cattle

By P. Sandøe, L.F. Theut & M. Denwood
Preprint version of contribution to the EurSafe 2018 Conference

Abstract

Danish Blue Cattle is a breed of cattle originating from the Belgian White Blue Cattle (BWB), a breed that is characterized by double muscling, which in turn may lead to difficult calving. In Belgium, difficult calving in this breed is typically pre-empted by means of planned caesarean sections (CS). The breed association, under some pressure from its parent organisation the National Cattle Committee, first implemented an action plan to reduce the rate of CS following a media event and subsequent reactions from politicians in Denmark in 1998. Later, the breed association renamed the breed from Belgian White Blue to Danish Blue Cattle in an effort to distance the breed from its Belgian origin. The aim of this paper is to undertake an ethical evaluation of how this issue was handled, with specific focus on the actions of the breed association and the National Cattle Committee. This evaluation involves an objective assessment of the outcome of the action plan as well as a wider ethical assessment of the rationale and actions of the professional organisations in charge. We begin by describing the controversy in 1998, which led to the aforementioned action plan. Then, we evaluate how successful the action plan has been in achieving its stated goals. These results show that the action plan has achieved a decrease in the rate of CS from over 50% between 1990-1998 to below 10% between 2000-2013. There has also been a significant decrease in the rate of other types of difficult births in the breed. Finally, we evaluate the implementation of the action plan from the perspective of professional ethics, where the aim is to handle public controversies in such a way as to maintain acceptance from the surrounding society. This has clearly been a success. However, viewed from a consequentialist perspective with a focus on animal welfare, the outcome is more ambiguous. The welfare for Danish Blue cattle has improved, but on the other hand the breed still has a much higher level of CS than comparable breeds of cattle in Denmark.

Full text (pdf)