The Ethics of Laying Hen Genetics

Fernyhough, Mia; Nicol, Christine J.; van de Braak, Teun; Toscano, Michael J.; Tønnessen, Morten (2020). The Ethics of Laying Hen Genetics. Journal of agricultural and environmental ethics, 33(1), pp. 15-36. Springer Nature 10.1007/s10806-019-09810-2

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Despite societal concerns about the welfare of commercial laying hens, little attention has been paid to the welfare implications of the choices made by the genetics companies involved with their breeding. These choices regarding trait selection and other aspects of breeding significantly affect living conditions for the more than 7 billion laying hens in the world. However, these companies must consider a number of different commercial and societal interests, beyond animal welfare concerns. In this article we map some of the relevant dilemmas faced by genetics companies in order to outline the scope of opportunities to improve welfare under current market conditions. This includes identifying cases where different animal welfare concerns conflict. We discuss the moral responsibility of laying hen genetics companies and the welfare implications that derive from the choices they make and the policies they follow. In addition to evaluating a selection of predominant current practices and breeding goals, we outline different angles from where to assess the moral legitimacy of various industry practices and policies. We discuss specific issues such as injurious pecking, bone health, induced moulting, chick culling and the circumstances of breeding stock.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


05 Veterinary Medicine > Research Foci > Veterinary Public Health / Herd Health Management
05 Veterinary Medicine > Department of Clinical Research and Veterinary Public Health (DCR-VPH) > Veterinary Public Health Institute > Animal Welfare Division
05 Veterinary Medicine > Department of Clinical Research and Veterinary Public Health (DCR-VPH) > Veterinary Public Health Institute

UniBE Contributor:

Toscano, Michael Jeffrey


500 Science > 590 Animals (Zoology)
600 Technology > 630 Agriculture




Springer Nature




Lilian Karin Smith-Wirth

Date Deposited:

14 Jul 2020 10:42

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:39

Publisher DOI:





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