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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Accounting and accountability for farm animals: Conceptual limits and the possibilities of caring

Gottlieb, Uliana; Johed, Gustav; Hansson, Helena


This study explores dairy farmers’ accounts of farm animals in a context heavily influenced by the concept of farm animal welfare (FAW). We illustrate how external demands linked to FAW, performance concerns, and proximity to animals shape farmers’ formal and cognitive accounts of animals. We explain how different accounts underlie farmers’ accountability for animals. Using FAW as an example of a referent concept, we propose that accountability can be limited conceptually by its referent. This limit is not a matter of its (in)ability to account fully for all lived experiences. Rather, it is a matter of what one is or is not accountable for—such as the mortality rate but not culling—as well as assumptions regarding the referent—such as the nature of animal welfare and how it can be assessed and safeguarded. Even when it is conceptually bounded in this way, self-accountability has potential to alter farming practices by reflecting on caring about animals and on what this implies for oneself and the animals.


Farm animal welfare; Accounting; Accountability; Animals; Limits of accountability; Care

Published in

Critical Perspectives On Accounting
2022, Volume: 84, article number: 102409

    SLU Authors

    • UKÄ Subject classification

      Animal and Dairy Science
      Business Administration

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