Are Nonhuman Animals Entitled to Dignity, Privacy, and Non-Exploitation? A Smart Dairy Farm of the Future

Szablewska, Natalia and Mancini, Clara (2024). Are Nonhuman Animals Entitled to Dignity, Privacy, and Non-Exploitation? A Smart Dairy Farm of the Future. In: Rogers, Nicole and Maloney, Michelle eds. The Anthropocene Judgments Project: Futureproofing the Common Law. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, pp. 39–58.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003389569-4

Abstract

In this imaginary but realistic future scenario, human population and global urbanisation are at their historical highest and, as a result, natural ecosystems are under enormous pressure. To minimise the environmental impact of animal farming while allowing the farming industry to continue to operate and meet consumer demand, extensive outdoor farming systems are entirely replaced by intensive indoor smart farming systems. These are highly technologised environments designed to maximise production while optimising animal welfare; a practice that, nevertheless, continues to pose several welfare and ethics challenges. This project proceeded on the premise that nonhuman animals are agents capable of dignified existence, with corresponding needs for managing resources, social interactions, and related goals they actively pursue. Through the application of human rights law to nonhuman animals and guided by the principles of animal-centred research adapted to our smart dairy farm scenario, a fictional world court's judgment focused on three legal questions pertaining to farm animals’ rights to dignity, privacy, and freedom from slavery, servitude, and forced labour in the context of our future farm scenario. Given the fundamental values underpinning the human rights agenda, we argue that the interests of nonhuman animals can be assured if we were to (re-)imagine a world where humans are decentralised.

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