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This post is a summary of the article The Importance of End-of-Life Welfare from Heather Browning and Walter Veit. Any errors/misinterpretations are my own.


Instrumental value of life’s shape     

  • “Individuals will experience some events differently, based on what has preceded them” “as a result of interaction effects” (“prior events” create “anticipation, expectations, and memories”).
    • “Many animals have been shown to display behavioural signs of anticipation”.
  • “A human preference for particular life shapes may be, at least in part, due to a preference for control over one’s circumstances”.
    • “This also appears to be true for animals other than humans, where animals show changes in behavioural and physiological responses” in response to “novelty, suddenness, predictability, control, and confirmation with prior expectation”.

The value of the trend of change

  • “It is a common intuition in thinking about human wellbeing that it is better to have a life that begins poorly but ends well, rather than a life that begins well but ends poorly”.
    • “The trend of change is particularly relevant to agricultural animals, given that the experience of most (if not all) of these animals is of a life that goes particularly badly at its end”.

Internal importance of the trend of change

  • “For humans, this value arises primarily through the narrative importance they place on the ‘story’ of their own life”.
    • This “does not seem important for the animal case, as animals are unlikely to have such meaningful relations between the events of their lives”.
  • “Weaker sense of the relational view in which the preference is merely for good events to follow bad ones, rather than for a stronger narrative cohesion”.
    • “Work that has demonstrated that animals appear to demonstrate frustration when experiencing [downward] shifts in life quality” “is potentially indicative” of the same phenomena in animals.

External importance of the trend of change

  • “A life that starts well and ends badly is taken to be a tragedy, while one that starts badly and ends well a success story”.

Additional emotional significance to humans of harms occurring at the end of life

  • “As humans, we have an even stronger negative reaction to the thought of an animal ending its life in suffering than we do to the thought of equivalent suffering occurring at some earlier time”.
  • Emergence “of palliative care has emphasised the special importance of caring for the dying”.


  • “Animals experience during transport and slaughter” “should be weighted particularly highly because they occur at the end of life”.
  • “Suggestions to remedy this problem”:
    • “Prevention of suffering”: e.g. “campaigning for improved monitoring and enforcement of existing laws and regulations surrounding transport and slaughter”.
    • “Promotion of positive states”: e.g. “food treats”, “investigation into use of safe pleasure-inducing drugs”, and “music”.




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