The exponential rise in earth’s human population since the industrial revolution has put a heightened pressure on food production word wide. The global population reached approximately 7.2 billion in 2013 (United Nation News Centre, 2013) and consequentially the requirement for eggs and poultry has also substantially increased (Pluhar, 2010). As a result of this elevated demand for food, there has been a shift in the way agricultural practices operate to produce the large quantities of meat and eggs necessary to feed the population. The intensive farming method of animal husbandry has become quite a controversial issue and caused apprehension amongst many different factions of society. These concerns relate to how high density farming practices result in dangers associated with environmental impacts, human health and non-human welfare. Animal welfare/animal rights groups argue that the conditions in which the animals live are cruel and abhorrent. This notion of cruelty invites debate surrounding the complex and multi-faceted issue of the moral and ethical obligations humans have in respect to other animals. The issue of battery hen farming is further confounded by economic, social, political, and food security issues. For these reasons the issue warrants further investigation. The main focus of the essay is to explore the moral and ethical issues which humans have towards non-human animals using battery hens as a case study to highlight the topic. Ultimately concluding that public opinion seems to be growing in favour of the banning of battery hens.
Animal welfare philosophy:
Philosophers and scholars have long debated the human moral and ethical obligations towards non-human animals. The opposing paradigms of animal ethics are formed by numerous underlying belief systems. The major viewpoints on the issue can be summarised into three categories. Firstly there are indirect theories which reject awarding a moral right to animals on the basis that they lack autonomy, conscience or reason. This side of the argument includes notable subscribers such as Aristotle and Kant. Aristotle views describe a certain pecking order amongst biotic organisms within the natural world. This idea of a pecking order is determined by the abilities present in an organism due to its nature. Aristotle argued that despite plants, animals and humans all being capable of subsistence and flourishing, only humans and animals have the capacity for cognizance. Aristotle therefore reasoned that plants are at the bottom of the pecking order and therefore there purpose is to serve the needs of those higher in the hierarchy. As part of this ideology he theorised that since humans have the endowment of conscious reasoning whilst animals are solely reliant upon instincts, human beings are consequentially superior to non-human animals. Aristotle claimed therefore that it seemed justifiable that the purpose of animals is to serve the needs of humans (Regan and Singer, 1989).