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Farming Animals and the Capabilities Approach: Understanding Roles and Responsibilities through Narrative Ethics

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In the Proceedings that emerged from the Second International Workshop on the Assessment of Animal Welfare at Farm and Group Level, Sandoe, Christiansen, & Appleby (2003) challenged participants to ponder four fundamental questions:

a. What is the baseline standard for morally acceptable animal welfare?

b. What is a good animal life?

c. What farming purposes are legitimate?

d. What kinds of compromises are acceptable in a less-than-perfect world?

Continued reflection on those questions warrants examination of the shape of our modern agricultural ethic. It also calls for a reexamination of recent work by Nussbaum (2004) on extending the capabilities approach to animals and the interface of Nussbaum's work with Rollin's scholarship on telos (1995a). The resources of narrative ethics are summoned to navigate the above-mentioned questions and to explore how Nussbaum's approach and Rollin's notion of animals' natures relate to the main storyline associated with developments in agriculture.

Affiliations: 1: University of Alaska–Anchorage


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