Respect for Animal Autonomy in Bioethical Analysis: The Case of Automatic Milking Systems (AMS)

  • Kate M. Millar


An analysis of the ethical impacts of the use of anAutomatic Milking System (AMS) is employed as a casestudy to illustrate the use of a form of bioethicalanalysis in technology assessment. The approach isbased on the Ethical Matrix, where `impacts' areassessed in terms of (lack of) respect for threeethical principles as applied to interest groups. Inthis case, only impacts on dairy cows are examined,and principally in terms of their behaviouralfreedom.

In contrast to traditional milking systems, AMS, inprinciple, allow cows to present for milkingvoluntarily. So with AMS, it is claimed that dairymanagement relies on the autonomous interaction of thecow with her environment.

One of the roles of bioethical analysis is to identifythe influence of rhetoric and symbolism in technologyassessment, e.g., with respect to the claimed`voluntariness' of cows' presentation. The AMS can beinstalled to allow cows three types of access, viz., i)free choice ii) rewarded access (RA) iii) obligatoryaccess (OA). Studies suggest the desire for milkremoval per se is not critical in the cow'sattendance at the AMS. Continued motivation to bemilked, required for the system to function,principally relies on RA and OA. Both RA and OA aresubject to numerous factors, such as: design of theAMS, location, etc. In turn, these can affect thecows' behavioural freedom and welfare.

One of the aims of this approach is to illustrate theethical basis on which public policy is or can beformulated.

Automatic milking systems dairy technology assessment bioethics animal behaviour 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kate M. Millar
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Applied Bioethics, School of Biological Sciences, Sutton Bonington CampusUniversity of NottinghamLoughborough, Leics

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