Animals and Disease

If concepts of human illness, disease, and health are, in part, social constrictions, there will be differences between the ways in which diseases are identified for humans and the ways they are identified for other animals. Illnesses and diseases in animals will be judged through the social or cultural criteria of human beings. Pets or domestic animals may be regarded as having disease or being healthy depending on how they are viewed through human purposes and constructs. The diseases or illnesses of those animals that are not pets, however, along with those of plants, may be understood less in terms of human social or cultural criteria and more in terms of generalized knowledge about the species. In the case of animals in the wild, there may not be concern for individual suffering, disability, or deformity, but rather with the general health of the species. Identifying the role human values play in the concepts of animal disease and illness expands the discussion of the ethical treatment of nonhuman animals in bioethics.

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