In this brief essay I take a broad perspective on the notion of unraveling welfare and consider animals living in different conditions ranging from caged individuals in laboratories and zoos to free-living or almost free-living wildlife. I’ll step outside of the laboratory because billions of animals are slaughtered for food in an industry that tortures them on the way to their reprehensible deaths and at the places at which they are slaughtered. Furthermore, government agencies around the world kill millions of free-living and wild animals because they’re supposedly “pests”. This is a different sort of essay but I hope it will stimulate people to rethink what we mean by the phrase “animal welfare” in a broad and constructive ways because the way people interact with animals in laboratories is influenced by how they see animals in other contexts including outside of caged environments. Unraveling animal welfare means unscrambling our interrelationships with other animals by asking difficult questions about who we think we are, who we think “they” are, what we think we know, what we actually know. I’ll argue that “good welfare” isn’t “good enough” because existing laws and regulations still allow animals to be subjected to enduring pain and suffering and death “in the name of science”, which really means “in the name of humans”. We must do better for all animals and we can do so by taking into account the perspective of the each and every individual who we use for research, education, amusement, and for food and clothing. We must also consider individuals who we house in zoos and move around as if they’re pieces of furniture, for example, when zoos “redecorate” themselves because they need an “ambassador” for a given species or because an individual no longer brings in money. And we must also consider the fate of individuals when we “redecorate nature” by moving animals here and there for our and not their benefit; is it permissible to trade off the life of an individual for the “good of their species”? The emotional lives of animals are not all that private, hidden, or secret and animal emotions and sentience force us to care for them and to protect them from pain, suffering, and death. I conclude that everyone can do more to increase their “compassion footprint” and list ten reasons why animals are asking us to treat them better or leave them alone, and these reasons also bear on the unraveling of animal welfare.
Bekoff, M. (2008). Why “good welfare” isn’t “good enough”: minding animals and increasing our compassionate footprint. Annual Review of Biomedical Sciences, 10, T1-T14.