Death is a Welfare Issue



It is commonly asserted that “death is not a welfare issue” and this has been reflected in welfare legislation and policy in many countries. However, this creates a conflict for many who consider animal welfare to be an appropriate basis for decision-making in animal ethics but also consider that an animal’s death is ethically significant. To reconcile these viewpoints, this paper attempts to formulate an account of death as a welfare issue. Welfare issues are issues that refer to evaluations concerning an animal’s interests. This includes evaluations that refer only to comparisons between the presence and absence of states, including positive states. This means that an animal’s death may be a welfare issue insofar as it leads to the exclusion of relevant positive states. This allows us to deny that death is necessarily not a welfare issue.


Animal welfare issue Ethics Euthanasia Harm of death Nonhuman animal Killing 



The author would like to thank Zuzana Deans, Richard Haynes, Mickey Gjerris, Andrew Knight, David Main, Anna Olsson, Liz Paul, Michael Reiss, Ruud ter Meulen, and four independent reviewers for their constructive comments, the RCVS Trust for funding the original research and BSAVA Petsavers for funding the position during which these findings were published.


  1. Antoine, S. (1998). Animals according to French Law. In G. Chapoutheir & J.-C. Nouët (Eds.), The universal declaration of animal rights (pp. 17–31). Paris: Ligue Française des Droits de l’Animal.Google Scholar
  2. Bentham, J. (1789/1970). Introduction to the principles of morals and legislation. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  3. Boissy, A., Manteuffel, G., Jensen, M. B., Moe, R. O., Spruijt, B., Keeling, L. J., et al. (2007). Assessment of positive emotions in animals to improve their welfare. Physiology and Behaviour, 92, 375–397.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Broome, J. (1999). Ethics out of economics. Cambridge: CUP.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Francione, G. L. (1994). Animals, property and legal welfarism: “Unnecessary” suffering and the “humane” treatment of animals. Rutgers Law Review, 46, 721–770.Google Scholar
  6. Fraser, D., & Duncan, I. J. (1998). ‘Pleasures’, ‘pains’ and animal welfare: Toward a natural history of affect. Animal Welfare, 7, 383–396.Google Scholar
  7. Frey, R. G. (1983). Rights, killing and suffering. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.Google Scholar
  8. Glover, J. (1977). Causing death and saving lives. Harmondsworth: Penguin.Google Scholar
  9. Houpt, K. A., Goodwin, D., Uchida, Y., Baranyiová, E., Fatjó, J., & Kakuma, Y. (2007). Proceedings of a workshop to identify dog welfare issues in the US, Japan, Czech Republic, Spain and the UK. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 106, 221–233.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Kamm, F. M. (1993). Morality, mortality volume I. Oxford: OUP.Google Scholar
  11. Kant, I. (1902/1996). Metaphysics of morals (trans: Gregor, M.). Cambridge: CUP.Google Scholar
  12. Kant, I. (1963). Lectures in ethics (trans: Infield, L.). NY: Harper and Row.Google Scholar
  13. Knierim, U., & Jackson, W. T. (1997). Legislation. In M. C. Appleby & B. O. Hughes (Eds.), Animal welfare (pp. 249–264). Oxford: CAB International.Google Scholar
  14. Lockwood, J. (1979). Singer on killing and preference for life. Inquiry, 22, 157–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. McIntyre, A. (1981/1985). After virtue. London: Gerald Duckworth and Co.Google Scholar
  16. McMahan, J. (1995). Killing and equality. Utilitas, 7, 1–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Morton, D. B. (2007). A hypothetical strategy for the objective evaluation of animal well-being and quality of life using a dog model. Animal Welfare, S1, 75–81.Google Scholar
  18. Pluhar, E. B. (1995). Beyond prejudice. Durham: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Regan, T. (1983). The case for animal rights. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  20. Rodd, R. (1990). Biology, ethics and animals. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  21. Rogelberg, S. G., Reeve, C. L., Spitzmüller, C., Di Giacomo, N., Clark, O. L., Teeter, L., et al. (2007). Impact of euthanasia rates, euthanasia practices, and human resource practices on employee turnover in animal shelters. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 230(5), 713–719.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Rohlf, V., & Bennett, P. (2005). Perpetration-induced traumatic stress in persons who euthanize animals in surgeries, animal shelters and laboratories. Society and Animals, 13(3), 201–219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Rollin, B. E. (1981). Animal rights and human morality. New York: Prometheus.Google Scholar
  24. Rollin, B. (1988). Animal euthanasia and moral stress. In W. J. Kay, et al. (Eds.), Euthanasia of the companion animal (pp. 31–41). Philadelphia: Charles Press.Google Scholar
  25. Rollin, B. (2006). An introduction to veterinary medical ethics (2nd ed.). Iowa: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  26. Salt, H. (1892/1980). Animal rights. Fontwell: Centaur.Google Scholar
  27. Sapontzis, S. F. (1987). Morals, reasons and animals. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Schweitzer, A. (1929). Civilisation and ethics. London: Black.Google Scholar
  29. Singer, P. (1978). Practical ethics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Spruijt, B. M., can den Bos, R., & Pijlman, F. T. A. (2001). A concept of welfare based on reward evaluating mechanisms in the brain: Anticipatory behaviour as an indicator for the state of reward systems. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 72, 145–171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. van Willigenberg, T. (2001). An internalist view on the value of life and some tricky cases relevant to it. Journal of Applied Philosophy, 18(1), 25–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Webster, J. (1994). Animal welfare: A cool eye towards Eden. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.Google Scholar
  33. Webster, J. (2005). Animal welfare: Limping towards Eden. Oxford: UFAW/Wiley-Blackwell.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Yeates, J., & Main, D. C. (2008). Assessment of positive welfare: A review. The Veterinary Journal, 175, 293–300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar


  1. Isted v. CPS The Times 18 August 2000.Google Scholar
  2. Cinadr v. Texas 300 S.W. 64 (Tex. Crim. App 1927).Google Scholar
  3. Miller v. State 63 S.E. 571 (Ga. Ct. App 1909).Google Scholar
  4. Patchett v. Macdougall 1984 SLT 152.Google Scholar
  5. R (BUAV) v. Secretary of State for the Home Department QBD 27 July 2007.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Clinical Veterinary Science and Centre for Ethics in MedicineUniversity of BristolBristolUK

Personalised recommendations