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Conference paper2021Peer reviewed

The ethics of intensive agriculture: lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic

Torpman, Olle; Röcklinsberg, Helena


Modern intensive agriculture, including both forestry and intensive animal farming, imposes an increased risk of cross-species diseases, so-called zoonoses. When animals are kept in small spaces, and when deforestation pushes wild animals closer to humans, there is a non-negligible risk that zoonotic diseases are developed and spread to humans. While much has been said about the ethical aspects of these types of intensive agriculture in general, less has been said about the ethical aspects of its risks related to zoonoses in particular. The aim of this paper is to highlight some ethical challenges for intensive agriculture that come with such risks, with a special interest in animal farming. In doing so, we analyse the implications from some major moral perspectives. Our hypothesis is that the risks imposed by intensive agriculture, with respect to diseases that affect humans, imply that adjustments are needed. In effect, we argue that this requires substantial animal welfare improvements in intensive animal farming. We moreover argue that this conclusion can be reached without taking animals themselves into direct consideration.


animal ethics; intensive animal farming; SARS-CoV-2; zoonoses

Published in

ISBN: 978-90-8686-362-4, eISBN: 978-90-8686-915-2
Publisher: Wageningen Academic Publishers


EurSafe 2021 Fribourg, Switzerland 24-26 June 2021