Welfare Ethics And Animal Agriculture

Welfare is a normative or evaluative term indicating how well or poorly a creature does (e.g., fares) in a given situation or setting. The term became especially important in the British utilitarian tradition of ethics and social thought made famous by Jeremy Bentham (1748 1832) and John Stuart Mill (1806 1873), by which conduct was evaluated in light of its impact on human welfare. Many approaches in ethics hold that human conduct must abide by predetermined constraints. In contrast, utilitarian ethics claim that actions or policies are justified only if they have the best possible impact on the happiness or satisfaction (e.g., welfare) of affected parties, without regard to whether conduct conforms to legal, religious, and customary rules and codes. As early as 1789, Bentham argued that the concept of welfare applied to both human beings and nonhuman animals capable of suffering.

For a utilitarian, ethics demands that one anticipate the benefits and harms to everyone affected for each of one's options, and then choose the option producing the greatest good for the greatest number. Utilitarianism gave rise to the field of welfare economics, which developed economic tools for evaluating the costs and benefits of alternative social policies, especially those intended to secure the well-being of indigent people (hence the popular meaning of the word welfare).

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