Animal welfare can be understood as an external cost borne by animals and not reflected in the prices paid by food consumers in the industrial food system. Animal scientists have developed a utilitarian approach to this problem by utilizing animal welfare science to quantify the costs to animals, whereas some animal advocates prefer a rights approach. However, neither of these approaches escapes the need for judgment and assumptions about how to frame problems and interpret values.

At present there is no widely accepted or noncontro-versial philosophical approach to augmenting scientific studies of animal welfare, nor is there a clear way to resolve conflicts between utilitarian and rights-based approaches. Pragmatic ethics calls for systematic articulation, discussion, and debate over uneliminable subjective, interpretive, and judgmental assumptions. Articulation of assumptions and opportunity to challenge and debate them at least offer the possibility of consensus solutions and may result in innovative approaches to problems in measuring animal welfare.

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