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Reprod Domest Anim. 2018 Nov;53 Suppl 3:4-13. doi: 10.1111/rda.13335.

Ethics in animal breeding.

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Department of Production Animal Clinical Sciences, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Oslo, Norway.


Ethical breeding involves the use of healthy animals true to their species in behaviour and physical appearance, and when applicable, showing a sustainable performance. The concerns for the species/breed are essential parts of the breeding goals, including preservation of genetic resources within the species/breed, and the health and welfare of the individual animal. Ethical and welfare considerations were often not prioritized in developing new breeds of production or companion animals. As a result, animal breeding practices are increasingly becoming part of the debate on animal welfare. In companion animals, breeding for curiosity or "cuteness" may be a goal in itself, although dogs are also bred for utility. In production animals, breeding focus is on performance, i.e., quantitative entities and financial income, rather than physical appearance. For instance, dairy cows are bred to be larger and to have higher milk yields, sows and ewes to produce more offspring, and horses are designed for riding, racing, and companionship. Overbreeding in relation to current demand of horses, cats, and dogs raises welfare issues due to abandonment or killing of horses and millions of cats and dogs every year. There is variable regulation of health requirements for breeding animals in different countries of the world. In many countries, consumers are becoming increasingly aware of animal welfare issues such as negative effects of certain production traits in farm animals, leading to decreased demand for their meat at a time where increased food production is becoming crucial. Amidst these dilemmas are the veterinarians. This paper deals with issues connected to traditional breeding as well as some of the breeding technologies, and includes food safety, ethics, and animal welfare.


animal breeding; animal welfare; breeding goals; companion animals; ethics; production animals

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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