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Here you will find various publications covering broader aspects of animal ethics in the following categories:




Book review: Making a stand for animals

By Peter Sandøe (2023)
Animal Welfare. UFAW. 


Making a Stand for Animals is Oscar Horta’s own English translation of his 2017 book Un Paso Adelante en Defensa de los Animales. In the book Horta describes himself as “an animal activist and moral philosopher”, and clearly both roles have played a part in the writing of the book. Horta the activist aims to encourage, and indeed provoke, the reader – who is addressed throughout in the second person as “you” – to take up the concerns he describes, helping to bring about a radical change in the way non-human sentient animals (which I shall refer to simply as “animals”) are treated by us. Horta the moral philosopher, on the other hand, presents philosophical arguments supported by more than 40 thought experiments to try to underpin the need for change.

A strong feature about the book, and something that distinguishes it from most others in the field, is that it is accessible to readers without expertise in philosophy. The main text is free of technical jargon. References appear in extensive sets of endnotes, placed at the end of each chapter, which can be skipped by readers who just want to proceed with the argument.

In his introduction Horta sets out his two main aims. These are, first, to present the powerful reasons why we must challenge widespread human lack of concern about animals, and second, to bring about large-scale behavioural change in the ways in which animals are treated. According to Horta the latter is by far the most difficult of the two tasks, and therefore more than half of the book is dedicated to it.

Making a Stand for Animals (URL)

The value of animal life: How should we balance quality against quantity?

By P. Sandøe & S. B. Christiansen (2007)
Animal Welfare. UFAW. 


In many situations choices must be made that will have an impact on the welfare of companion animals. Often one of the options will be to euthanase the animal in question. The way in which one views this option will depend not only on ones assessment of the quality of the animals life (or the lives of other affected parties), but also on how one values an animal life as such.

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. First an account is given of what it is to justify a moral view. Secondly, the view that animals do not have moral standing and that therefore we have no direct duties to them is examined. Thirdly, four different views about the nature of our duties to animals are presented and discussed. They are: utilitarianism, the animal rights view, the species-integrity view, and the agent-centred view. Finally, it is discussed why it is important to hold a justified view concerning ones duties to animals. 

Ethics (pdf) 





Rethinking the utility of the Five Domains model

Hampton, J., Hemsworth, L., Hemsworth, P., Hyndman, T., & Sandøe, P. (2023)
Animal Welfare. UFAW

The Five Domains model is influential in contemporary studies of animal welfare. It was originally presented as a conceptual model to understand the types of impact that procedures may impose on experimental animals. Its application has since broadened to cover a wide range of animal species and forms of animal use. However, it has also increasingly been applied as an animal welfare assessment tool, which is the focus of this paper. Several critical limitations associated with this approach have not been widely acknowledged, including that: (1) it relies upon expert or stakeholder opinion, with little transparency around the selection of these individuals; (2) quantitative scoring is typically attempted despite the absence of clear principles for aggregation of welfare measures and few attempts to account for uncertainty; (3) there have been few efforts to measure the repeatability of findings; and (4) it does not consider indirect and unintentional impacts such as those imposed on non-target animals. These deficiencies lead to concerns surrounding testability, repeatability and the potential for manipulation. We provide suggestions for refinement of how the Five Domains model is applied to partially address these limitations. We argue that the Five Domains model is useful for systematic consideration of all sources of possible welfare compromise and enhancement, but is not, in its current state, fit-for-purpose as an assessment tool. We argue for wider acknowledgment of the operational limits of using the model as an assessment tool, prioritisation of the studies needed for its validation, and encourage improvements to this approach.

Rethinking the utility of the Five Domains model (Full text - URL)

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. 


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.

Highlighting ethical decisions underlying the scoring of animal welfare in the Welfare Quality® scheme (pdf)

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. 


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.

Farm animal welfare: The interaction between ethical questions and animal welfare science (limited access)

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. 

Assessing animal welfare - where does science end and philosophy begin? (limited access)




















Digital opportunities to connect and complain – the use of Facebook in small animal practice

Springer, S., Lund, T. B., Sandøe, P., Corr, S. A., Kristensen, A. T., & Grimm, H. (2022) 
VetRecord Open. 
British Veterinary Association



Social media is increasingly used in small animal practice, enabling veterinarians to connect with clients and promote their business online. It can also be used by clients to quickly distribute complaints via online communities.


Using a questionnaire study we investigated Austrian, Danish and UK veterinarians’ attitudes towards Facebook, the contents of clients’ online complaints and how they were handled by veterinarians (N = 648).


In Denmark and the UK, around 90% of practices had a Facebook page, in contrast to 40% of Austrian practices. Most Danish and UK veterinarians agreed that the use of Facebook was relevant and expected by clients. Agreement was lower among Austrian veterinarians, probably reflecting the lower uptake of social media there. In particular, younger veterinarians and those who actively used Facebook for the practice, could see benefits. In all three countries, we found that clients most frequently complained about treatment costs. Most veterinarians preferred to actively deal with clients’ complaints, either replying online or discussing them directly.


We recommend future research focusing on veterinarians’ personal use of social media and on clients’ use of and attitudes towards social media in the veterinary context.

Digital opportunities to connect and complain – the use of Facebook in small animal practice (URL)

Comparing veterinarians’ attitudes to and the potential influence of pet health insurance in Austria, Denmark and the UK

By S. Springer, T. B. Lund, H. Grimm, A.T. Kristensen, S. A. Corr & P. Sandøe (2022). 
VetRecord. BVA



Health insurance offers many benefits to clients and veterinarians, such as the ability to perform necessary and possibly cost-intensive medical interventions without financial constraints, or to potentially prevent euthanasia based on financial challenges. However, concerns about negative consequences, such as the overuse of diagnostic tests or overtreatment, have also been raised.


Using an online questionnaire distributed via e-mail, which included a section on health insurance, we investigated the relative number of insured dogs and cats treated by Austrian, Danish and UK veterinarians (N = 636) and the attitudes of those veterinarians toward health insurance. Further, using a case vignette, we examined whether coverage by health insurance may influence treatment suggestions.


Even though veterinarians in all three countries believe that health insurance reduces stress since clients’ financial resources will be less important, we found that Austrian veterinarians are more likely to agree that health insurance is unnecessary compared to Danish and UK veterinarians. Further, many raised the concern that insurance policies influence clinical decisions; and less than half supported the idea of making insurance mandatory. A majority of veterinarians in Austria and the UK thought that insurance can lead to the overuse of diagnostic tests, and in the UK a majority also thought that it can lead to overtreatment. Using case vignettes, we found that veterinarians were significantly more likely to suggest a CT scan to a client with an insured animal, in contrast to a client with stated financial limitations. Further, UK veterinarians were more likely to suggest a CT scan to a client with an insured animal, in contrast to a client without insurance.


In conclusion, we found that veterinarians, in general, were in favour of health insurance, and that greater coverage may increase more cost-intensive veterinary care. Our findings also raise a potential ethical challenge of health insurance causing differential access to clinical care for patients.

Comparing veterinarians’ attitudes to and the potential influence of pet health insurance in Austria, Denmark and the UK (URL)

“Patients’ interests first, but . . . ” – Austrian Veterinarians’ Attitudes to Moral Challenges in Modern Small Animal Practice

By S. Springer, P. Sandøe, T. B. Lund & H. Grimm (2019) 


Small veterinary practice is experiencing steady improvement in diagnostics and therapies which enable veterinarians to offer evermore advanced medical care for their patients. This focus group study of veterinarians (n = 32) examined the impact of these improvements and the potential challenges they introduce in small animal practice. It shows that while advanced diagnostics and therapies deliver benefits in patient care, they also add complexities to decision-making. Although the veterinarians participating in the study were aware of their duty to act in the best interests of the animal, their decisions were highly dependent on factors such as the client’s financial background and the emotional bond between client and animal, as well as the veterinarian’s place of work, and level and field of specialization, and certain economic aspects of the practice. The overall conclusion is that small animal veterinarians are increasingly torn between serving the best interests of the animal, medical feasibility and contextual factors related to the client, the veterinarian, and professional colleagues. Further, the findings suggest that services are not only oriented towards the provision of medical care in a strict medical sense. On top of this, veterinarians need to deal with various expectations and wishes of clients which influence their decision-making. As it will be shown, factors like the possibility of referring patients to specialist veterinarians or prompt diagnostic results influence their decision-making.

Austrian Veterinarians’ Attitudes to Moral Challenges in Modern Small Animal Practice (URL)

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.

Encouraging Self-Reflection by Veterinary Clinicians: Ethics on the Clinic Floor (pdf)

The veterinarian's dilemma: a study of how Danish small animal practitioners handle financially limited clients

By S. V. Kondrup, K. P. Anhøj, C. Rødsgaard-Rosenbeck, T. B. Lund, M. H. Nissen, & P. Sandøe (2016) 
Veterinary Record. BMJ Publishing Group


This study examined the extent to which Danish veterinary practices encounter financially limited clients and how different factors relating to the animal, the client and the veterinarian affect decisions to provide treatment for these clients. 300 small animal practices were invited to participate in an online survey. 195 participated, giving a response rate of 65 per cent. The results show that Danish small animal veterinary practices encounter clients with limited finances regularly: 33.8 per cent of them 3–4 times, 24.6 per cent 5–10 times and 19.5 per cent 1–2 times a month. Only around 9 per cent reported having a written practice policy on handling financially limited clients. Factors affecting decisions to treat include the severity and type of the animal’s condition, the medical care needed and the client’s expressed emotions. The propensity to treat is significantly higher in female veterinarians and in situations involving unborn animals. The overall conclusion is that small animal veterinary practices often provide treatment to clients who are not able to pay—far beyond what is legally required. This can be considered a major economic and psychological challenge for the practising veterinarians.

A study of how Danish small animal practitioners handle financially limited clients (pdf)

Veterinarians’ role in clients’ decision-making regarding seriously ill companion animal patients

S.B. Christiansen, A.T. Kristensen, J. Lassen & P. Sandøe (2016) 
Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica.
BioMed Central


Background - When companion animals become seriously ill clients may have doubts about treatment choices, if any, and turn to veterinarians for help. But how should veterinarians reply? Influence on clients’ decision-making may or may not be acceptable—depending on one’s attitude to principles such as ‘paternalism’, ‘respect for autonomy’ and ‘shared decision-making’. This study takes as a starting point a situation where the animal is chronically ill, or aged, with potentially reduced animal welfare and client quality of life, and thus where clients need to consider treatment options or euthanasia. It is assumed throughout that both veterinarians and clients have the animals’ best interest at heart. The purpose of the study was to explore the challenges these situations hold and to investigate how clients experience veterinary influence. A second aim was to reflect on the ethical implications of the role of veterinarians in these situations. Qualitative interviews were conducted with 12 dog owners considering treatment or euthanasia of their chronically ill or aged dogs.

Results - Challenges relating to the dog and to the client were identified. Some situations left the interviewees hesitant, e.g. if lacking a clear cut-off point, the dog appeared normal, the interviewee felt uncertain about treatments or animal welfare, or experienced conflicting concerns. Some interviewees found that veterinarians could influence their decisions. Such influence was received in different ways by the interviewees. Some interviewees wanted active involvement of the veterinarian in the decision-making process, and this may challenge a veterinarian’s wish to respect client autonomy.

Conclusions - Different preferences are likely to exist amongst both veterinarians and clients about veterinary involvement in clients’ decision-making, and such preferences may vary according to the situation. It is suggested, that one way to handle this challenge is to include respect for client preference on veterinary involvement under a wider understanding of respect for autonomy, and to apply models of shared decision-making to veterinary practice. In any case there is a need to further explore the challenges these situations raise, and for the veterinary profession to engage in more formal and structured deliberation over the role of veterinarians in relation to clients’ decision-making.

Veterinarians’ role in clients’ decision-making regarding seriously ill companion animal patients (URL)

Looking After Chronically III Dogs: Impacts on the Caregiver's Life

S.B. Christiansen, A.T. Kristensen, P. Sandøe & J. Lassen (2013) 
Taylor & Francis


Studies in human medicine show that care of chronically ill family members can affect the caregiver's life in several ways and cause “caregiver burden.” Companion animals are offered increasingly advanced veterinary treatments, sometimes involving home care. Owners choosing such treatments could thus face similar challenges when caring for their animals. This qualitative study uncovers impacts on an owner's life, when attending to the care of an aged or chronically ill dog and reflects on the differing roles of caregivers with animal and human patients. Twelve dog owners were selected for in-depth interviews based on the dogs' diagnoses, and the choice of treatments and care expected to affect the owner's life. Interviews were recorded, transcribed, and analyzed qualitatively. The dog owners reported several changes in their lives due to their dog's condition: practicalities like extra care, changes in use of the home, and restrictions relating to work, social life, and finances. These were time-consuming, tough, and annoying, but could often be dealt with through planning and prioritizing. Changes in the human–dog relationship and activities caused sadness and frustration, which in turn led to feelings of guilt, and in some cases created a feeling of loss. Also, concerns about the progress of the dog's condition, it's welfare, and euthanasia brought emotional distress and many doubts. The owners did, however, respond to the changes differently and as a result experienced different effects on their own life. This study confirms that the situations of caregivers with human and animal patients are in some ways similar, yet the study also identifies and reflects on some of the differences. These include the caregiver role and the options of assistance as well as euthanasia. Veterinary staff are urged to inform owners about possible impacts on their lives when considering careconsuming treatments, and to be aware of the need for support during treatment as well as in decisions about euthanasia.

Looking After Chronically Ill Dogs (limited access)