Should Animal Welfare Be Defined in Terms of Consciousness?

Philosophy of Science 89 (5):1114-1123 (2022)
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Definitions of animal welfare often invoke consciousness or sentience. Marian Stamp Dawkins has argued that to define animal welfare this way is a mistake. In Dawkins’s alternative view, an animal with good welfare is one that is healthy and “has what it wants.” The dispute highlights a source of strain on the concept of animal welfare: consciousness-involving definitions are better able to capture the normative significance of welfare, whereas consciousness-free definitions facilitate the validation of welfare indicators. I reflect on how the field should respond to this strain, ultimately recommending against splitting the concept and in favor of consciousness-involving definitions.

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Jonathan Birch
London School of Economics


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