The Political Problem of Welfare

  • John HadleyEmail author


In this chapter I explain the political problem of welfare. There is a question mark hanging over the democratic legitimacy of the prevailing policy conception of welfare. The political problem of welfare arises because of a key difference between the policy conception of welfare and the folk conception of welfare. The policy conception is that welfare is all about feelings, specifically, measurable suffering; the folk conception is that welfare is about more than feelings. The folk view encompasses nonhedonistic considerations such as dignity, respect, and naturalness. I explain the development of the policy conception and identify its origins in animal welfare science and the theory of value known as hedonism. I present a survey of the attitudes-to-animals literature as support for the claim that the folk view of welfare is broad-based.


Hedonism Animal welfare Animal welfare science Folk psychology Attitudes-to-animals Nonhedonism Public policy Scientism 


  1. Anil, Leena, Sukumarannair S. Anil, and John Deen. 2005. Pain detection and amelioration in animals on the farm: Issues and options. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 8 (4): 261–278. Scholar
  2. Bentham, Jeremy. [1789] 2007. An introduction to the principles of morals and legislation. Mineola, NY: Dover.Google Scholar
  3. Blokhuis, H.J., I. Veissier, M. Miele, and B. Jones. 2010. The Welfare Quality® project and beyond: Safeguarding farm animal well-being. Acta Agriculturae Scandinavica, Section a—Animal Science 60 (3): 129–140. Scholar
  4. Bracke, M.B.M., and H. Hopster. 2006. Assessing the importance of natural behaviour for animal welfare. Journal Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 18: 77–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bradford, Gwen, and Simon Keller. 2016. Well-being and achievement. In The Routledge handbook of the philosophy of well-being, ed. Guy Fletcher, 271–280. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  6. Broom, Donald. 2011. A history of animal welfare science. Acta Biotheoretica 59: 121–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Broom, Donald K., and Ken G. Johnson. 1993. Stress and animal welfare. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cataldi, Sue L. 2002. Animals and the concept of dignity: Critical reflections on a circus performance. Ethics and the Environment 7 (2): 104–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chen, Peter John. 2016. Animal welfare in Australia: Politics and policy. Sydney: Sydney University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Clark, Beth, Gavin B. Stewart, Luca A. Panzone, I. Kyriazakis, and Lynn J. Frewer. 2016. A systematic review of public attitudes, perceptions and behaviours towards production diseases associated with farm animal welfare. Journal Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 29: 455–478.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dawkins, Marion S. 1980. Animal suffering: The science of animal welfare. London: Chapman & Hall.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Degeling, Chris, and Jane Johnson. 2015. Citizens, consumers and animals: What role do experts assign to public values in establishing animal welfare standards? Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 28: 961–976.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Duncan, Ian. 2006. The changing concept of animal sentience. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 100: 11–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fraser, David. 1998. Animal welfare. In Encyclopedia of animal rights and animal welfare, ed. Marc Bekoff and Carron A. Meaney. Westport: Greenwood Press.Google Scholar
  15. Fraser, David. 1999. Animal ethics and animal welfare science: Bridging the two cultures. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 65: 171–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fraser, David. 2008. Understanding animal welfare: The science in its cultural context. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.Google Scholar
  17. Fraser, David, and Ian Duncan. 1998. ‘‘Pleasures’’, ‘‘pains’’ and animal welfare: Toward a natural history of affect. Animal Welfare 7: 383–396.Google Scholar
  18. Gregory, Alex. 2016. Hedonism. In The Routledge handbook of philosophy of well-being, ed. Guy Fletcher, 113–123. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  19. Hadley, John. 2017. From welfare to rights without changing the subject. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 20 (5): 993–1004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Harrison, Ruth. 1964. Animal machines: The new factory farming industry. London: Vincent Stuart.Google Scholar
  21. Hawkins, Jennifer. 2016. The experience machine and the experience requirement. In The Routledge handbook of the philosophy of well-being, ed. Guy Fletcher, 355–365. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  22. Haynes, Richard P. 2008. Animal welfare: Competing conceptions and their ethical implications. Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Heleski, C.R., A.G. Mertig, and A.J. Zanella. 2004. Assessing attitudes to farm animal welfare: A national survey of animal science faculty. Journal of Animal Science 82: 2806–2814.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Humphreys, Rebekah. 2016. Dignity and its violation examined within the context of animal ethics. Ethics and the Environment 21 (2): 143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kahane, Guy. 2016. Pain, experience and well-being. In The Routledge handbook of the philosophy of well-being, ed. Guy Fletcher, 209–220. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  26. Lassen, J., P. Sandøe, and B. Forkman. 2006. Happy pigs are dirty! Conflicting perspectives on animal welfare. Livestock Science 103 (3): 221–230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Marie, M. 2006. Ethics: The new challenge for animal agriculture. Livestock Science 103 (3): 203–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Mellor, David J. 2012. Animal emotions, behaviour and the promotion of positive welfare states. New Zealand Veterinary Journal 60 (1): 1–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Mellor, David J., and N.J. Beausoleil. 2015. Extending the ‘five domains’ model for animal welfare assessment to incorporate positive welfare states. Animal Welfare 24: 241–253.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Mench, Joy. 1998. Thirty years after Brambell: Whither animal science? Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 1 (2): 91–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Miele, M., I. Veissier, A. Evans, and R. Botreau. 2011. Animal welfare: Establishing a dialogue between science and society. Animal Welfare 20: 103–117.Google Scholar
  32. Millman, Suzanne T. 2009. Animal welfare—Scientific approaches to the issues. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 12 (2): 88–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Nussbaum, Martha. 2006. Frontiers of justice: Disability, nationality, species membership. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of the Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Ohl, F., and F.J. van der Staay. 2012. Animal welfare: At the interface between science and society. The Veterinary Journal 192 (1): 13–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Phillips, Clive. 2013. Animal welfare standards must work for all, not just industry. The Conversation. Accessed 4 Apr 2019.
  36. Rice, Christopher M. 2016. Well-being and animals. In The Routledge handbook of the philosophy of well-being, ed. Guy Fletcher, 378–388. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  37. Robbins, Jesse, Becca Franks, and Marina A.G. von Keyerlingk. 2018. ‘More than a feeling’: An empirical investigation of hedonistic accounts of animal welfare. Plos One 13 (3): e0193864. Scholar
  38. Rushen, J. 2003. Changing concepts of farm animal welfare: Bridging the gap between applied and basic research. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 81: 199–214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Signal, T., and N. Taylor. 2006. Attitudes to animals in the animal protection community compared to a normative community sample. Society and Animals 14 (3): 265–274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Southwell, A., A. Bessey, and B. Baker. 2006. Attitudes towards animal welfare: A research report. Canberra: TNS Consultants.Google Scholar
  41. Tannenbaum, J. 1991. Ethics and animal welfare: The inextricable connection. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 198: 1360–1376.Google Scholar
  42. Te Velde, H.T., N. Aarts, and C. Van Woerkum. 2002. Dealing with ambivalence: Farmers’ and consumers’ perceptions of animal welfare in livestock breeding. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 15 (2): 203–219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Vanhonacker, Filiep, Wim Verbeke, Els Van Poucke, and Frank A.M. Tuyttens. 2008. Do citizens and farmers interpret the concept of farm animal welfare differently? Livestock Science 116 (2008): 126–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Vanhonacker, F., E. Van Poucke, F. Tuyttens, and W. Verbeke. 2010. Citizens’ views on farm animal welfare and related information provision: Exploratory insights from Flanders, Belgium. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 23: 551–569.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Vanhonacker, F., W. Verbeke, E. Van Poucke, Z. Pieniak, G. Nijs, and F. Tuyttens. 2012. The concept of farm animal welfare: Citizen perceptions and stakeholder opinion in Flanders, Belgium. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 25 (1): 79–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Vigors, B. 2018. Reducing the consumer attitude–behaviour gap in animal welfare: The potential role of ‘nudges’. Animals 8: 232. Scholar
  47. Webster, John. 1994. Animal welfare: A cool eye towards Eden. Oxford, UK: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  48. Williams, V.M., B.D. Lascelles, and M.C. Robson. 2005. Current attitudes to, and use of, peri-operative analgesia in dogs and cats by veterinarians in New Zealand. New Zealand Veterinary Journal 53 (3): 193–202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Yeates, J.W., and D.C.J. Main. 2008. An assessment of positive welfare: A review. The Veterinary Journal 175: 293–300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Yeates, J.W., H. Röcklinsberg, and M. Gjerris. 2011. Is welfare all that matters? A discussion of what should be included in policy-making regarding animals. Animal Welfare 20: 423–432.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Western Sydney UniversityPenrithAustralia

Personalised recommendations