Genome editing and farmed animal breeding: social and ethical issues


Published 01/12/2021

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Cow in field flipped

Justice in food and farming systems

See chapter 3 of the full report

Our report examines the values and considerations that should inform how food and farming systems can develop to address some of the challenges outlined in Chapter 2.

Justice within food and farming systems means arranging and managing those systems so that they secure the basic interests of those who depend on them. Securing these basic interests is a condition for anyone to be able to live a good life. As for humans, animals have certain basic interests that should be secured for them to live good lives, and for which they are dependent on the farming systems in which they are raised and kept.

For example:

  • Access to safe, affordable and nutritious food is a basic interest of all members of society. Many people depend on farmed animals to meet their basic needs including people who are unable to access sufficient protein or nutrients through plants and who are therefore dependent on meat, fish and dairy. Many are also currently employed in the livestock farming sector and rely on it for their livelihood.
  • The lives of farmed animals depend almost entirely on the farming systems in which they live, which have been put in place by humans to serve human needs. Animals have basic interests that must be respected for them to have the possibility of living a good life within these farming systems. The things that animals need to meet their basic interests will vary from animal to animal and from species to species. They include fundamental conditions such as the absence of pain and suffering, but also more complex considerations involving emotions, behaviour and intelligence. This requires providing opportunities for farmed animals to have positive experiences, rather than simply removing factors that have a negative impact on their wellbeing.

Conclusions in brief

To ensure justice within our food and farming systems, the production and supply of food must be achieved in ways that secure the basic interests of people and of animals.

The introduction of any new technologies or innovations into the food system should aim to secure and promote these basic interests.