Growing Social Concern

Animal agriculture raises other animal welfare issues beyond confinement. Although cattle ranching is highly extensive and in fact presupposes a good fit between animal and environment, management techniques such as castration without anesthesia, hot-iron branding, and dehorning without anesthesia produce pain and suffering in these animals. Transportation of agricultural animals over long distances, for example to slaughter, is very stressful, and can cause disease and injury. Handling of farm animals by people ignorant of their behavior is an extremely widespread problem that creates high levels of stress and significant injury. Slaughter of food animals raises the issue of whether these animals can be provided with a death free of pain, suffering, and fear. This problem is particularly acute in the area of Jewish and Muslim religious slaughter, where preslaughter stunning has been considered incompatible with religious demands. Genetic engineering of farm animals for traits that are desirable to producers for reasons of efficiency and productivity may well exact costs in welfare from the animals' perspective. For example, swine and chickens engineered for greater size have suffered from a variety of diseases, including foot and leg problems. A cow engineered for double muscling was unable to stand on its own and required euthanasia. On the other hand, genetic engineering can also work to the benefit of farm animals, for example, by engineering for disease resistance.

Other branches of animal agriculture rear animals for uses other than food. Raising traditionally "wild" animals for various purposes has generated concerns about the well-being of these animals—pheasants for hunting, mink for fur, and deer for antler velvet (which is considered an aphrodisiac in the Orient) provide salient examples. Numerous welfare concerns have also been raised by the production of horses for human purposes—breakdown and injury in racehorses; injury in endurance horses (those used in long, grueling, competitive rides over difficult terrain); heat, water deprivation, and poor air for urban carriage horses. Indeed, no branch of animal agriculture is being ignored by growing social concern about animal welfare.


SEE ALSO: Agriculture and Biotechnology; Animal Research; Endangered Species and Biodiversity; Enhancement Uses of Medical Technology; Veterinary Ethics; and other Animal Welfare and Rights subentries

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