Here you will find various publications covering broader aspects of animal ethics in the following categories:
Moral Convictions and Meat Consumption—A Comparative Study of the Animal Ethics Orientations of Consumers of Pork in Denmark, Germany, and Sweden
By T. B. Lund, S. Denver, J. Nordström, T. Christensen & P. Sandøe (2021)
In western Europe, national animal welfare legislation since the 1980s in combination with EU legislation has served to ensure minimal requirements for the welfare of farm animals. For many consumers, however, these requirements do not go far enough. Market-driven initiatives where farmers, processors of animal products, and retailers raise the standards via labelling schemes and price premiums may further improve the welfare of farm animals, but such initiatives are only viable solutions if there is sufficient consumer support. To find out to what extent such support exists, we studied the relationship between animal ethics orientations and consumer demand for welfare-enhanced pork in Denmark, Germany, and Sweden. In all three countries, we identified a consumer segment that endorses the ideal behind schemes to enhance farm animal welfare, i.e., that it is ethically justified to eat meat provided the animals enjoy a good level of welfare. Consumers in this segment are highly concerned about animal welfare, and also purchase welfare pork more often than other consumers. More than one fourth of consumers in all three countries belong to this segment; therefore, we believe that market actors can be reassured that there will be persistent consumer demand for welfare-enhanced meat.
Background: The relationship between animal ethics orientations and consumer demand for meat with high standards of animal welfare, and the way this relationship plays out in different countries, is not well understood. Using pork as a case study, this comparative study aims to identify the animal ethics orientations that drive purchases of welfare meat in Denmark, Germany, and Sweden. Methods: Cross-sectional questionnaire data from representative samples of approximately 1600 consumers in each country were collected. A segmentation of pork consumers (using latent profile analysis) was carried out. Results: In all three countries, two subgroups were concerned about farm animal welfare: the first subgroup was driven by animal rights values; the second subgroup by animal protection values, where the main principle was that “it is all right to use animals as long as they are treated well”. Other consumer groups are less concerned about farm animal welfare and display little or no preference for welfare pork. Conclusions: In all three countries, dual demand for welfare pork exists. The findings of this study can be used, among others, to understand the marketability of enhanced welfare animal products and the potential for market-driven animal welfare improvements.
A multidimensional measure of animal ethics orientation – developed and applied to a representative sample of the Danish public
By T. B. Lund, S. V. Kondrup & P. Sandøe
PLoS ONE. PLOS
We present a questionnaire-based measure of four animal ethics orientations. The orientations, which were developed in light of existing empirical studies of attitudes to animal use and ethical theory, are: animal rights, anthropocentrism, lay utilitarianism, and animal protection. The two latter orientations can be viewed as variants of animal welfarism. Three studies were conducted in Denmark in order to identify the hypothesised orientations, evaluate their concurrent validity, and report their prevalence and relevance in animal-related opinion formation and behaviour. Explorative factor analysis (Study 1) and confirmative factor analysis (Study 2) successfully identified the four orientations. Study 2 revealed good measurement invariance, as there was none or very modest differential item functioning across age, gender, living area, and contrasting population segments. Evaluation of concurrent validity in Study 2 found that the orientations are associated with different kinds of behaviour and opinion when the human use of animals is involved in the hypothesised directions. In Study 3, a representative population study, the animal protection orientation proved to be most prevalent in the Danish population, and as in study 2, the four orientations were associated with different behaviours and opinions. Remarkably, the animal protection orientation does not lead to increased animal welfare-friendly meat consumption, the main reason for this being non-concern about the current welfare status of farm animals. We argue that the developed measure covers a wide range of diversity in animal ethics orientations that is likely to exist in a modern society such as Denmark and can be used in future studies to track changes in the orientations and to understand and test hypotheses about the sources and justifications of people’s animal-related opinions and behaviours.
The value of animal life: How should we balance quality against quantity?
By P. Sandøe & S. B. Christiansen (2007)
Animal Welfare. UFAW.
The value of animal life (pdf)
By P. Sandøe, R. Crisp & N. Holtug (1997)
Animal welfare. CABI.
This is a discussion of views concerning how we ought to treat animals and of the justifications on which these views are based.
Facilitating Ethical Reflection Among Scientists Using the Ethical Matrix
K.K. Jensen, E.-M. Forsberg, C. Gamborg, K. Millar & P. Sandøe (2011)
Science and Engineering Ethics. Springer
Several studies have indicated that scientists are likely to have an outlook on both facts and values that are different to that of lay people in important ways. This is one significant reason it is currently believed that in order for scientists to exercise a reliable ethical reflection about their research it is necessary for them to engage in dialogue with other stakeholders. This paper reports on an exercise to encourage a group of scientists to reflect on ethical issues without the presence of external stakeholders. It reports on the use of a reflection process with scientists working in the area of animal disease genomics (mainly drawn from the EADGENE EC Network of Excellence). This reflection process was facilitated by using an ethical engagement framework, a modified version of the Ethical Matrix. As judged by two criteria, a qualitative assessment of the outcomes and the participants’ own assessment of the process, this independent reflective exercise was deemed to be successful. The discussions demonstrated a high level of complexity and depth, with participants demonstrating a clear perception of uncertainties and the context in which their research operates. Reflection on stakeholder views and values appeared to be embedded within the discussions. The finding from this exercise seems to indicate that even without the involvement of the wider stakeholder community, valuable reflection and worthwhile discourse can be generated from ethical reflection processes involving only scientific project partners. Hence, the previous assumption that direct stakeholder engagement is necessary for ethical reflection does not appear to hold true in all cases; however, other reasons for involving a broad group of stakeholders relating to governance and social accountability of science remain.
Scientific uncertainty - how should it be handled in relation to scientific advice regarding animal welfare issues?
By P. Sandøe, B. Forkman & S. B. Christiansen (2004)
Animal Welfare. UFAW
The provision of advice on animal welfare is an important part of the work of scientists in applied ethology, neurophysiology, veterinary epidemiology and other disciplines. Those who request guidance often expect advice that will help them to make progress in difficult discussions. Scientists want to live up to these expectations, but it is also important for them to clarify any scientific limitations. They are normally aware of limits to their advice, but these limits are sometimes not explicitly stated. Using the phrase broadly, we call this kind of limitation 'scientific uncertainty'.
We distinguish between the following four types of uncertainty: 1) Ontological uncertainty, relating to the existence of animal feelings and other states relevant for animal welfare. 2) Conceptual uncertainty, stemming from the fact that some of the concepts used in animal welfare science are value-laden if used outside a narrow scientific context. 3) Lack of scientific evidence, stemming from a lack of scientific data on the problem in question. 4) Uncertainty about priorities, relating to the practical conclusions to be drawn in a situation with an open-ended set of ethical and other practical considerations. Scientific uncertainty is unavoidable. It is therefore essential, when giving scientific advice, to state the assumptions on which the advice is based. This makes scientific advice more objective, but also of more limited value to those who do not share the underlying assumptions.
Highlighting ethical decisions underlying the scoring of animal welfare in the Welfare Quality® scheme
I. Veissier, K.K. Jensen, R. Botreau & P. Sandøe (2011)
Animal Welfare. UFAW
All systems of scoring animal units (groups, farms, slaughter plants, etc) according to the level of the animals’ welfare are based inevitably on normative decisions. Similarly, all methods of labelling, in terms of acceptability, are based on choices reflecting ethical values. The evaluative dimension of scoring and labelling does not mean that we should reject them, but it does mean that we need to make the normative and ethical background explicit. The Welfare Quality® scoring system is used as a case study in order to highlight the role of underlying value-based decisions. In this scoring system, which was designed in accordance with assessments and judgments from experts in animal and social sciences and stakeholders, we identify value-based decisions at the following five levels.
First, there are several definitions of animal welfare (eg hedonist, perfectionist, and preferentialist), and any welfare scoring system will reflect a focus upon one or other definition. In Welfare Quality®, 12 welfare criteria were defined, and the entire list of criteria was intended to cover relevant definitions of animal welfare. Second, two dimensions can structure an overall evaluation of animal welfare: the individual animals and the welfare criteria (here 12). Hence, a choice needs to be made between the aggregation of information at the individual level (which results in a proportion of animals from the unit in a good vs bad state) and the aggrega- tion at criterion level (which results in a proportion of criteria to which the unit complies vs does not comply). Welfare Quality® opted for the second alternative to facilitate the provision of advice to farmers on solving the welfare problems associated with their farms. Third, one has to decide whether the overall welfare assessment should reflect the average state of the animals or give priority to worse-off animals. In the Welfare Quality® scoring system the worse-off animals are treated as much more important than the others, but all welfare problems, major or minor, count. Fourth, one has to decide whether good scores on certain criteria can compensate for bad scores on others. In the opinion of most people, welfare scores do not compensate each other. This was taken into account in the Welfare Quality® scoring system by using a specific operator instead of mere weighted sums. Finally, a scoring system may either reflect societal demands for high levels of welfare or be based on what can be achieved in practice — in other words, an absolute assessment or a relative one may be proposed.
Welfare Quality® adopted an intermediate strategy: absolute limits between welfare categories (Not classified, Acceptable, Enhanced, or Excellent level of welfare) were set, but the rules governing the assign- ment of an animal unit to a category take into account what had been observed on European farms. The scientists behind Welfare Quality® are keen to make the value-based choices underlying assessments of animal welfare transparent. This is essential to allow stakeholder groups to understand the extent to which their views are acknowledged and acted upon.
Conflicting goals of welfare assessment schemes: A case study
By R. Ingemann, P. Sandøe, P. Enemark & B. Forkman (2009)
Animal Welfare. UFAW
The aim of this article is to discuss the farming industry's development and use of welfare assessment schemes. A welfare assessment scheme developed by the Danish Cattle Federation (DCF) is used as a case study. The declared aim of the DCF scheme is to improve animal welfare, farm profitability and dialogue with the public. It is the purpose of this article to attempt to understand the dilemmas arising from this broad aim.
Conflicting goals of welfare assessment schemes: A case study (limited access)
Farm animal welfare: The interaction between ethical questions and animal welfare science
By P. Sandøe, S.B. Christiansen & M.C. Appleby (2003)
Animal Welfare. UFAW
Farm animal welfare has now been studied, within a scientific framework, for several decades. The framework does not include ethical issues, but unless measurements of animal welfare at farm level are embedded in an ethical context, there is a danger that these measurements will not be properly utilised. This paper considers the relationship between ethical questions and animal welfare assessment. In it, the following four key ethical questions are identified. What is the baseline standard for morally acceptable animal welfare? What is a good animal life? What farming purposes are legitimate? What kinds of compromise are acceptable in a less-than-perfect world?
The authors suggest that animal welfare scientists need to reflect carefully on these questions if welfare assessments are to be properly interpreted and put to practical use. Such reflection will lead to a more transparent appreciation of the values underlying welfare assessment. In this way, it will both offer welfare scientists a greater awareness of their own value-assumptions and enable the same scientists to communicate effectively with the wider audience farmers, consumers, pressure groups, policy-makers and so on for which the results of animal welfare assessments are of concern.
Assessing animal welfare - where does science end and philosophy begin?
By P. Sandøe & H.B. Simonsen (1992)
Animal Welfare. UFAW
To be able to assess animal welfare the researcher must presuppose a number of background assumptions that cannot be tested by means of ordinary empirical data collection. In order to substantiate these assumptions two sorts of inferences have to be relied upon, which the authors designate by the terms 'analogies' and 'homologies'. Analogies are evaluative, philosophical reflections by means of which it is made clear what provisions or states constitute the welfare of humans and other animals. By means of analogies it may, for example be argued that animal welfare consists of subjective experiences such as pain, boredom, pleasure and expectation. Also by means of analogies the relative 'weight' of these states can be decided. Homologies are part of theoretical science. They serve to clarify how the relevant experiences are linked to measurable anatomical physiological and behavioural parameters.
An account is given of the steps which have to be taken to give a full answer to a question concerning the welfare of animals. In the account only farm animals are mentioned, but the same steps, of course, also have to be taken to answer questions concerning the welfare of other kinds of animals be they companion, laboratory, zoo or wild. Eight steps are described, and it is argued that both analogies and homologies are needed at very fundamental levels. Therefore, if animal welfare science is to provide relevant, rational and reliable answers to questions concerning animal welfare, it must be an interdisciplinary inquiry involving philosophical reflections and theoretical biology.
Happy pigs are dirty! - Conflicting perspectives on animal welfare
By J. Lassen, P. Sandøe & B. Forkman (2006)
Livestock Science. Elsevier
In some cases, ethical assumptions may be uncontroversial, but they may also be the cause of disagreement. A case study is presented that seems to indicate that there is systematic disagreement between lay and expert views about what a good animal life is. The study is based on interviews about modern pig production. The title of this paper summarises the reaction of an interviewee when commenting on pictures of what is generally regarded as animal-friendly pig production. In the lay perspective, living a natural life is an important part of animal welfare a part that supplements, and therefore needs to be combined with, the absence of suffering and frustration that are central components of the expert approach. The main message of the paper for those who are professionally involved in animal
production is that ethical assumptions and potential conflicts of view should be recognised and brought into the discussion of animal welfare.
Farm animal welfare in Europe: From legislation to labelling
By P. Sandøe & T. Christensen (2018)
A modified version of this paper is published in the proceedings of the Chinese Swine Industry Symposium, Shanghai October 2018
The modern idea of animal welfare was born in Europe in the 1960s in response to the concerns of informed citizens about the plight of animals in modern, intensive animal production. Since then the idea has undergone several significant transformations. To understand today’s focus on animal welfare as a consumer issue we
The Idea of Animal Welfare - Developments and Tensions
By P. Sandøe & K. K. Jensen (2012)
UFAW Animal Welfare Series. Wiley-Blackwell
This paper focuses on developments and tensions within the idea of animal welfare. There is divergence among those who believe in the idea of animal welfare. First, we discuss what it takes for farm animal welfare to be good enough. How far should society go beyond the starting point of the Brambell Committee, which was to prevent avoidable suffering? Secondly, we turn to the tricky question of how welfare should be distributed between animals. Here, a tension within the concept of animal welfare, between a focus on the individual animal and on the herd, flock or shoal, is pointed out. Finally, the role of economic considerations is considered, given that animal production takes place in a global market with free trade between countries with various standards of animal welfare.
The Idea of Animal Welfare - Developments and Tensions (limited access)
Sandøe, P. (2010)
The encyclopedia of applied animal behaviour and welfare. CABI
'Animal welfare' is a wide-ranging, and often value-laden,
The implications of a feelings-based approach to fish welfare: A reply to Arlinghaus et al.
By F. Huntingford, C. Adams, V. A. Braithwaite, S. Kadri, T. G. Pottinger, P. Sandøe & J. F. Turnbull (2007)
Fish and Fisheries. Wiley-Blackwell
The welfare of fish is a topic of increasing debate touching on a number of complex scientific and ethical issues and constructive dialogue between groups with differing approaches to the topic requires mutual understanding from both perspectives. In a recent review aimed at stimulating debate on this topic, Arlinghaus et al. (2007) explore the question of fish welfare in the particular context of recreational angling, by means of a critique of a review of fish welfare in general written by ourselves (Huntingford et al. 2006). We entirely agree with the desirability of debate on this topic and recognise a number of valuable qualities in the commentary by Arlinghaus et al. However, we argue that the critique has some serious flaws.
In the first place, by rejecting
Philosophical debate on the nature of well-being: Implications for animal welfare
By M. C. Appleby & P. Sandøe (2002)
Animal Welfare. UFAW
There has been much consideration of well-being in philosophy, especially of human well-being, which contributes to our understanding of animal welfare. Three common approaches to well-being are presented here, which map approximately onto three possible ideas about animal welfare. Perfectionism and other forms of 'objective list' theories suggest that there are various values that should be realised or various things that an individual ought to have for his life to be a good life. In the case of humans, this is based on the concept of human nature.
This approach is reflected in two ideas about animal welfare: first, that animals should live natural lives (which includes consideration of an animal's nature or 'telos'), and second, that welfare is concerned with functioning or fitness of animals. The two other approaches are subjective; in other words, they relate solely to the mental processes of the subject. The first, desire fulfilment, suggests that well-being is defined by the satisfaction of desires or preferences. The other, hedonism, states that well-being is the presence of pleasant mental states and the absence of unpleasant ones. These two approaches are both relevant to the idea that the welfare of animals relates solely to their feelings. That idea corresponds most closely to hedonism, so it may be that preferences are most relevant in helping to reveal feelings. However, it is sometimes implied that satisfaction of preferences is itself part of feelings. It would also be possible to maintain, as in the desire fulfilment approach to human well-being, that animal welfare consists of preference satisfaction itself. These possibilities need to be more clearly distinguished. Arguments for and against each approach to well-being are presented, so that scientists may be more aware of the strengths and weaknesses of their own ideas about animal welfare.
Philosophical debate on the nature of well-being (limited access)
Ethics of feeding: the omnivore dilemma
By I. H. E. Kasanen, D. B. Sørensen, B. Forkman & P. Sandøe (2010)
Animal Welfare. UFAW
The way in which animals are fed is an important aspect of their welfare. Not only does food provide the energy and nutrients vital for survival, but feeding is also associated with a number of other factors contributing to the well-being of animals. The feeding method can determine the animals' abilities to fulfil basic behavioural needs, such as foraging. The aim of this paper is to review and discuss the dilemma of choosing between ad libitum feeding (AL) and dietary restriction (DR). AL can produce obese individuals with severe health problems, though it does appear to be compatible with welfare-friendly management systems. On the other hand, DR is often associated with improved physical health and longevity but can leave animals suffering from hunger, frustration or aggression.
The species discussed are the laboratory rat, pigs and poultry all of which are omnivores sharing many characteristics in their eating habits. The welfare implications of different feeding methods depend upon the definition of welfare used. Based on a definition of welfare in terms of functioning, DR could be considered the best way to feed animals, because it results in improved physical health and longevity. If welfare is defined in terms of natural living, it is also a requirement for the animal to be able to engage in natural foraging behaviours. From the feelings-based approach, DR can be viewed as preferable only in circumstances when animals are anticipated to live so long that they would otherwise suffer from the negative long-term consequences of AL. It is argued that incentives are needed to make farmers spend resources to ensure that farm animals are allowed to have their foraging-related needs fulfilled. Feeding of laboratory animals creates special dilemmas when it is important either to under- or over-nourish the animals for experimental purposes, in such instances there is a need for Refinement.
Ethics of feeding: the omnivore dilemma (limited access)
More than harm : a critical analysis of the harm principle in Regan's thinking
Keerus, K., Gjerris, M., & Röcklinsberg, H. (2013)
The ethics of consumption: The citizen, the market and the law. Wageningen Academic Publishers
Tom Regan encapsulated his principle of harm as a prima facie direct duty not to harm those individuals who have an experiential welfare. However, his consideration of deprivational harm, the examples of which is loss of freedom or death, can easily be interpreted as harm which is not experienced by its subject. This creates a gap between Regan’s criterion for moral status and his account of what our duties are. We discuss how Regan’s understanding of harm relates to his claim that animals should be taken into consideration because it matters to them what happens to them and compare his account of harm with three basic paradigms of welfare known in animal welfare science: the feelings-based, functioning-based and natural-living-based paradigms. We argue that Regan’s account coheres with feelings-based paradigm and his account of deprivational harm does not exclude the possibility to interpret this as experiential, too. We will show a potential source for the confusion: in convincing his readers that certain cases of deprivation constitute harm to individuals even if they never experience it as such, Regan avails of the evaluative use of the term ‘harm’: something is called harm only if it is (implicitly) decided to be wrong. Due to his ambition to argue for direct duties towards animals, Regan too easily casts off the alternative and – from our perspective – better reasons for considering the alleged acts of unexperienced and unknown deprivation wrong.
Painful dilemmas: The ethics of animal-based pain research
By M. Magalhães-SantAna, P. Sandøe & I. A. S. Olsson (2009)
Animal Welfare. UFAW
While it has the potential to deliver important human benefits, animal-based pain research raises ethical questions, because it involves inducing pain in sentient beings. Ethical decision-making, connected with this variety of research, requires informed harm-benefit analysis, and the aim of this paper is to provide information for such an analysis. We present an overview of the different models and their consequences for animal welfare, showing that, of the many animal models available, most have a considerable welfare impact on the animal. While the usual approach to pain control through administration of analgesic substances is usually unsuitable in pain research, refinement remains an option, both within the experimental protocol and in general husbandry and handling. Drawing on the overview, we develop a discussion of the ethical acceptability of animal-based pain research against the background of the kinds of harm done to the animals involved, the potential for refinement, and the expected benefits of the research.
Painful dilemmas: The ethics of animal-based pain research (limited access)
Is welfare all that matters? A discussion of what should be included in policy-making regarding animals
Yeates, J.W., Röcklinsberg, H. & Gjerris, M. (2011)
Animal Welfare. UFAW
Policy-making concerned with animals often includes human interests, such as economy, trade, environmental protection, disease control, species conservation etc. When it comes to the interests of the animals, such policy-making often makes use of the results of animal welfare science to provide assessments of ethically relevant concerns for animals. This has provided a scientific rigour that has helped to overcome controversies and allowed debates to move forward according to generally agreed methodologies. However, this focus can lead to policies leaving out other important issues relevant to animals. This can be considered as a problem of what is included in welfare science, or of what is included in policy. This suggests two possible solutions: expanding animal welfare science to address all ethical concerns about animals' interests or widening the perspective considered in policy-making to encompass other important ethical concerns about animals than welfare. The latter appears the better option. This requires both a 'philosophy of animal welfare science', a 'philosophy of decision-making about animals', and greater transparency about what is included or excluded from both animal welfare science and the politics of animal policy.
What Is so Positive about Positive Animal Welfare? - A Critical Review of the Literature
By A. B. Lawrence, B. Vigors & P. Sandøe (2019)
It is claimed that positive animal welfare (PAW) developed over the last decade in reaction to animal welfare focusing too much on avoiding negatives. However, it remains unclear what PAW adds to the animal welfare literature and to what extent its ideas are new. Through a critical review of the PAW literature, we aim to separate different aspects of PAW and situate it in relation to the traditional animal welfare literature. We find that the core PAW literature is small (n = 10 papers) but links to wider areas of current research interest. The PAW literature is defined by four features: (1) positive emotions which is arguably the most widely acknowledged; (2) positive affective engagement which serves to functionally link positive emotions to goal-directed behavior; (3) quality of life which serves to situate PAW within the context of finding the right balance of positives over negatives; (4) happiness which brings a full life perspective to PAW. While the two first points are already part of welfare research going back decades, the two latter points could be linked to more recent research agendas concerning aggregation and how specific events may affect the ability of animals to make the best of their lives.
How should the welfare of fetal and neurologically immature postnatal animals be protected?
By M. L. H. Campbell, D. J. Mellor, & P. Sandøe (2014)
Animal Welfare. UFAW
Examining why ethics is taught to veterinary students: a qualitative study of veterinary educators' perspectives
By M. Magalães-Sant'Ana, J. Lassen, K. Millar, P. Sandøe & I.A. Olsson (2014)
Journal of Veterinary Medical Education. University of Toronto Press
Although it is widely agreed that veterinary students need to be introduced to ethics, there is limited empirical research investigating the reasons why veterinary ethics is being taught. This study presents the first extensive investigation into the reasons for teaching veterinary ethics and reports data collected in semi-structured interviews with educators involved in teaching undergraduate veterinary ethics at three European schools: the University of Copenhagen, the University of Nottingham, and the Technical University of Lisbon (curricular year 2010–2011). The content of the interview transcripts were analyzed using Toulmin's argumentative model. Ten objectives in teaching veterinary ethics were identified, which can be grouped into four overarching themes: ethical awareness, ethical knowledge, ethical skills, and individual and professional qualities. These objectives include recognizing values and ethical viewpoints, identifying norms and regulations, developing skills of communication and decision making, and contributing to a professional identity. Whereas many of the objectives complement each other, there is tension between the view that ethics teaching should promote knowledge of professional rules and the view that ethics teaching should emphasize critical reasoning skills. The wide range of objectives and the possible tensions between them highlight the challenges faced by educators as they attempt to prioritize among these goals of ethics teaching within a crowded veterinary curriculum.
Animal ethics dilemma: An interactive learning tool for university and professional training
By A.J. Hanlon, A. Algers, T. Dich, T. Hansen, H. Loor & P. Sandøe (2007)
Animal Welfare. UFAW
'Animal Ethics Dilemma' is a freely available computer-supported learning tool which has been developed primarily for veterinary undergraduates but is applicable also to students in other fields of animal science. The objectives of the computer program are to promote students understanding of the ethics related to animal use, to illustrate ethical dilemmas that arise in animal use, to broaden students moral imagination, and to enable students to differentiate between types of ethical argument.
Encouraging Self-Reflection by Veterinary Clinicians: Ethics on the Clinic Floor
By S. A. Corr, C. Palmer & P. Sandøe (2018)
The American Journal of Bioethics. Taylor & Francis
Rosoff and colleagues (2018) describe some difficult ethical decisions facing veterinarians in clinics treating dogs, cats, and other companion animals. They propose adapting the human clinical consultation committee model, and establishing clinical ethics committees (CECs) to assist in resolving such ethical challenges in the more advanced of these clinics, the so-called tertiary care veterinary specialty hospitals.
In this commentary, we agree that veterinarians often face troubling ethical decisions involving potential over- or undertreatment of their animal patients, the financial constraints of their clients, and, sometimes, the goals of the institutions that employ them. While we accept that a CEC may, in some contexts, be an appropriate structure in which to deal with such difficult decisions, we argue that this is not the only, or necessarily the best, approach. We suggest that the ethical problems facing veterinarians differ significantly in different countries; that many acute ethical issues typically arise before animals even arrive at the veterinary specialty hospital; and that even within such hospitals, approaches other than CECs might be more effective, especially at gaining acceptance by the veterinarians themselves.