Legitimating Visions, Mitigating Risks Industrial and Agrarian Strategies to Resolve the Enigma of Animal Welfare



Published Oct 30, 2022
Robert Chiles


Scott Lougheed



The tension between industrial and agrarian systems is well traveled territory in both environmental and rural sociology, but the needs, interests, and experiences of animals as meaningful subjects in the context of these systems has received far less attention. In this paper, we accordingly analyze how public understandings of risk and legitimacy are actively negotiated by industrial and agrarian meat producers in the aftermath of animal welfare controversies. More specifically, we examine how animal welfare is enacted through these two paradigms, respectively, by analyzing Temple Grandin’s industrial slaughter reforms and on-farm (agrarian) slaughter. We argue that all concerned meat producers must make difficult decisions about which animal welfare risks they wish emphasize or de-emphasize, and that neither system can eliminate these risks entirely.

How to Cite

Chiles, R. and Lougheed, S. (2022) “Legitimating Visions, Mitigating Risks: Industrial and Agrarian Strategies to Resolve the Enigma of Animal Welfare ”, The International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food. Paris, France, 28(2), pp. 59–72. doi: 10.48416/ijsaf.v28i2.454.
Abstract 1073 | PDF Downloads 204


Abnett K. (2021) Caged animal farming must end in EU, European Commission says. Reuters.
Alali WQ, Thakur S, Berghaus RD, et al. (2010) Prevalence and distribution of Salmonella in organic and conventional broiler poultry farms. Foodborne Pathogens and Disease 7: 1363-1371.
Amos N and Sullivan R. The business benchmark on farm animal welfare report 2018.
Appleby MC and Sandøe P. (2002) Philosophical debate on the nature of well-being: implications for animal welfare. Animal Welfare 11: 283-294.
Bassi EM, Goddard E and Parkins JR. (2019) “That’s the way we’ve always done it”: A social practice analysis of farm animal welfare in Alberta. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 32: 335-354.
Bassi EM, Parkins JR and Caine KJ. (2019) Situating emotions in social practices: Empirical insights from animal husbandry in the cow‐calf industry. Sociologia Ruralis 59: 275-293.
Beck U. (1992) Risk society: Towards a New Modernity, London: SAGE Publications.
Beck U. (2010) World at Risk, Malden. Polity.
Beck U. (2018) Ecological Politics in an Age of Risk: John Wiley & Sons.
Blanchette A. (2018) Industrial meat production. Annual Review of Anthropology 47: 185-199.
Blatchford RA. (2018) 16 - Backyard flock production. In: Mench JA (ed) Advances in Poultry Welfare. Woodhead Publishing, 339-350.
Bohr J and Dunlap RE. (2018) Key topics in environmental sociology, 1990–2014: Results from a computational text analysis. Environmental Sociology 4: 181-195.
Bonné J. (2004) Can animals you eat be treated humanely? Available at: http://www.nbcnews.com/id/5271434/ns/business-us_business/t/can-animals-you-eat-be-treated-humanely/.
Bonneau M and Weiler U. (2019) Pros and cons of alternatives to piglet castration: Welfare, boar taint, and other meat quality traits. Animals 9: 884.
Browning H and Veit W. (2020) Is humane slaughter possible? Animals 10: 799.
Buller H and Morris C. (2003) Farm animal welfare: A new repertoire of nature-society relations or modernism re-embedded? Sociologia Ruralis 43: 216.
Buller H and Roe E. (2014) Modifying and commodifying farm animal welfare: The economisation of layer chickens. Journal of Rural Studies 33: 141-149.
Busch L. (2000) The moral economy of grades and standards. Journal of Rural Studies 16: 273.
Busch L. (2011) The private governance of food: equitable exchange or bizarre bazaar? Agriculture and Human Values 28: 345.
Busch L and Bain C. (2004) - New! Improved? The transformation of the global agrifood system*. - Rural Sociology - 69: - 321.
Buttel FH. (2001) Some reflections on late twentieth century agrarian political economy. Sociologia Ruralis 41: 165-181.
Carey JL. (2011) " The paradox of my work": Making sense of the factory farm with Temple Grandin. CR: The New Centennial Review 11: 169-192.
Carey R, Parker C and Scrinis G. (2020) How free is sow stall free? Incremental regulatory reform and industry co‐optation of activism. Law & Policy 42: 284-309.
Chiew F. (2014) Posthuman ethics with Cary Wolfe and Karen Barad: Animal compassion as trans-species entanglement. Theory, Culture & Society 31: 51-69.
Clonan A, Wilson P, Swift JA, et al. (2015) Red and processed meat consumption and purchasing behaviours and attitudes: Impacts for human health, animal welfare and environmental sustainability. Public Health Nutrition 18: 2446-2456.
Council NR. (2009) Recognition and Alleviation of Pain in Laboratory Animals, Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
Croney C, Mench J, Muir W, et al. (2018) Scientific, Ethical, and Economic Aspects of Farm Animal Welfare.
Croney C, Muir W, Ni J-Q, et al. (2018) An overview of engineering approaches to improving agricultural animal welfare. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 31: 143-159.
Dam Otten N, Rousing T and Forkman B. (2017) Influence of professional affiliation on expert’s view on welfare measures. Animals 7: 85.
Danovich T. (2021) A ban on mail order chicks? New York legislators are considering a bill that would prohibit shipping live animals within the state. Modern Farmer.
De Vries CE. (2007) Sleeping giant: Fact or fairytale? How European integration affects national elections. European Union Politics 8: 363-385.
Dean J. (2009) Who's afraid of third wave feminism? International Feminist Journal of Politics 11: 334-352.
Delind L and Howard P. (2008) Safe at any scale? Food scares, food regulation, and scaled alternatives. Agriculture and Human Values 25: 301.
Dullaghan N. (2020) Do countries comply with EU animal welfare laws? Effective Altruism Forum.
DuPuis EM. (2000) Not in my body: rBGH and the rise of organic milk. Agriculture and Human Values 17: 285.
Ellis C. (2014) Boundary labor and the production of emotionless commodities: The case of beef production. The Sociological Quarterly 55: 92-118.
Estabrook B. (2010) The need for custom slaughter. The Atlantic.
Evancie A. (2014) On-farm slaughter may be legal, but it's complicated. Vermont Public Radio.
Ferree MM, Gamson WA, Rucht D, et al. (2002) Shaping abortion discourse: Democracy and the public sphere in Germany and the United States: Cambridge University Press.
Foster JB. (1999) Marx's theory of metabolic rift: Classical foundations for environmental sociology. American Journal of Sociology 105: 366-405.
Frickel S and Davidson DJ. (2004) Building environmental states: Legitimacy and rationalization in sustainability governance. International Sociology 19: 89-110.
Friedmann H. (2005) From colonialism to green capitalism: Social movements and emergence of food regimes. 11: 227.
Fu J. (2020) Three chickens a second: USDA gives more poultry slaughterhouses green light to speed up processing. The Counter.
Giddens A. (1984) The Constitution of Society: Outline of the Theory of Structuration, Cambridge: Polity Press.
Gillespie K. (2011) How happy is your meat? Confronting (dis) connectedness in the ‘alternative’ meat industry. The Brock Review 12: 100-128.
Grandin T. (2006) Progress and challenges in animal handling and slaughter in the US. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 100: 129-139.
Grandin T. (2010) Auditing animal welfare at slaughter plants. Meat Science 86: 56-65.
Grandin T. (2011) Defining 'egregious'. Meat+Poultry.
Grandin T. (2021) Biography: Temple Grandin Ph.D. Available at: http://www.grandin.com/temple.html.
Grandin T and Deesing MJ. (1998) Genetics and behavior during handling, restraint, and herding. Genetics and the behavior of domestic animals: 113-144.
Grethe H. (2017) The economics of farm animal welfare. Annual Review of Resource Economics 9: 75-94.
Gruen L. (2018) Critical terms for animal studies. University of Chicago Press.
Gunderson R and Stuart D. (2014) Industrial animal agribusiness and environmental sociological theory: Applications and areas for development. International Journal of Sociology 44: 54-74.
Habermas J. (1975) Legitimation Crisis, Boston: Beacon press.
Hagenstein EC, Gregg SM and Donahue B. (2011) American Georgics: Writings on Farming, Culture, and the Land: Yale University Press.
Harvey F. (2021) Animals to be formally recognised as sentient beings in UK law. The Guardian.
Hayek MN and Garrett RD. (2018) Nationwide shift to grass-fed beef requires larger cattle population. Environmental Research Letters 13: 084005.
Held L. (2021) Are some animal welfare labels ‘humanewashing’? Civil Eats.
Henry C. (2014) A cow's eye view? Cattle empathy and ethics in screen representations of Temple Grandin. Animal Studies Journal 3: 6-28.
Irwin A, Dale A and Smith D. (1996) Science and Hell's Kitchen: The local understanding of hazard issues. Misunderstanding Science: 47-64.
Jacobs L, Bourassa DV, Harris CE, et al. (2019) Euthanasia: Manual versus mechanical cervical dislocation for broilers. Animals 9: 47.
Jasanoff S. (2003) Breaking the waves in science studies: Comment on HM Collins and Robert Evans, ‘The third wave of science studies'. Social Studies of Science 33: 389-400.
Jasanoff S. (2007) Bhopal’s trials of knowledge and ignorance. Isis 98: 344-350.
Johnson C, Dowd TJ and Ridgeway CL. (2006) Legitimacy as a social process. Annual Review of Sociology: 53-78.
Johnson RJ, Marti DL and Gwin L. (2012) Slaughter and processing options and issues for locally sourced meat. US Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, LDP-M-216-01, June. http://www. ers. usda. gov/media/820188/ldpm216-01. pdf.
Juska A, Gouveia L, Gabriel J, et al. (2003) Manufacturing bacteriological contamination outbreaks in industrialized meat production systems: The case of E. coli O157:H7. Agriculture and Human Values 20: 3.
Karreman H and Fulwider W. (2020) Animal well-being on organic farms. In: Grandin T (ed) Improving Animal Welfare: A Practical Approach (3rd Edition). Boston: CABI, 269-283.
Klar J. (2016) Time for some animal welfare accountability. VTdigger. The Vermont Journalism Trust.
Konefal J, Mascarenhas M and Hatanaka M. (2005) Governance in the global agro-food system: Backlighting the role of transnational supermarket chains. Agriculture and Human Values 22: 291.
Kozinets Robert V. (2008) Technology/ideology: How ideological fields influence consumers’ technology narratives. Journal of Consumer Research 34: 865.
Lamey A. (2019) The animal ethics of Temple Grandin: A protectionist analysis. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics: 1-22.
Lion V. (2020) Disrupting Temple Grandin: Resisting a “humane” face for autistic and animal oppression. Disability and Animality. Routledge, 182-211.
Lockie S. (2015) Emergent themes? A year in the life of Environmental Sociology. Environmental Sociology 1: 237-240.
Lockie S. (2015) Why environmental sociology? Environmental Sociology 1: 1-3.
Lupton D. (1999) Risk and Sociocultural Theory: New Directions and Perspectives: Cambridge University Press.
Maciel CT and Bock B. (2013) Modern politics in animal welfare: The changing character of governance of animal welfare and the role of private standards. The International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food 20: 219-235.
Marshall BK and Goldstein WS. (2006) Managing the environmental legitimation crisis. Organization & Environment 19: 214-232.
Martin A. (2005) PETA ruffles feathers. Available at: https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-2005-08-06-0508060070-story.html.
Martin JE, Sandercock DA, Sandilands V, et al. (2018) Welfare risks of repeated application of on-farm killing methods for poultry. Animals 8: 39.
Mathews Jr KH and Johnson RJ. (2013) Alternative beef production systems: Issues and implications. US Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, LDPM-218-01.
Matthews D. (2018) America’s largest pork producer pledged to make its meat more humane. An investigation says it didn’t. Vox.
McClelland M. (2013) this is what humane slaughter looks like. Is it good enough? Modern Farmer.
McDonalds Corporation. (2008) McDonald's(R) USA names first-ever supplier sustainability award winner. CSR Wire.
McDougal T. (2018) Food companies set up Global Coalition for Animal Welfare. Poultry World.
McLaughlin P and Khawaja M. (2000) The organizational dynamics of the US environmental movement: Legitimation, resource mobilization, and political opportunity. Rural Sociology 65: 422-439.
McNeil DG. (2004) KFC supplier accused of animal cruelty. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/07/20/business/kfc-supplier-accused-of-animal-cruelty.html.
McVan M. (2021) Information on factory farms is spotty at best. The government has been hogtied from doing more. The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting.
McWilliams J. (2011) McFib? The conditions at McDonald's McRib Pork Supplier. Available at: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2011/11/mcfib-the-conditions-at-mcdonalds-mcrib-pork-supplier/247779/.
McWilliams J. (2015) The Modern Savage: Our Unthinking Decision to Eat Animals: Macmillan.
Mehrabi Z, Gill M, van Wijk M, et al. (2020) Livestock policy for sustainable development. Nature Food 1: 160-165.
Mellor DJ. (2016) Updating animal welfare thinking: Moving beyond the “Five Freedoms” towards “a Life Worth Living”. Animals 6: 21.
Mench JA. (2008) Farm animal welfare in the U.S.A.: Farming practices, research, education, regulation, and assurance programs. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 113: 298.
Mendez S. (2021) US egg production data set. 7.
Miele M and Bock B. (2007) Competing discourses of farm animal welfare and agri-food restructuring, editorial. International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food 15: 1-7.
Monroe H. (2018) Ableism, speciesism, animals and autism: The devaluation of interspecies friendships. Animaladies: Gender, Animals, and Madness: 89-99.
Moshtaghian AE, A. (2021) Over 166,000 hens die in Arizona farm fire. CNN.
Murdoch J and Miele M. (1999) 'Back to nature': Changing 'worlds of production' in the food sector. Sociologia Ruralis 39: 465.
Mythen G. (2004) Ulrich Beck: A critical introduction to the risk society: Pluto Press (UK).
Nickelsburg M. (2020) The pandemic has the potential to finally transform meat processing in the U.S. Civil Eats.
Nordquist RE, van der Staay FJ, van Eerdenburg FJCM, et al. (2017) Mutilating procedures, management practices, and housing conditions that may affect the welfare of farm animals: implications for welfare research. Animals 7: 12.
Norwood B and Murray S. (2018) Food Demand Survey. Oklahoma State University.
Norwood FB, Tonsor G and Lusk JL. (2019) I will give you my vote but not my money: Preferences for public versus private action in addressing social issues. Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy 41: 96-132.
Nosowitz D. (2020) Tyson to replace federal inspectors with own employees at beef plant. Modern Farmer.
Nosowitz D. (2020) USDA reduces oversight of egg industry. Modern Farmer.
Office USGA. (2004) Humane Methods of Slaughter Act: USDA has addressed some problems but still faces enforcement challenges. Washington, DC.
Parker C. (2013) Voting with your fork? Industrial free-range eggs and the regulatory construction of consumer choice. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 649: 52-73.
Paxson H. (2008) Post‐pasteurian cultures: The microbiopolitics of raw‐milk cheese in the United States. Cultural Anthropology 23: 15-47.
Pellow DN and Nyseth Brehm H. (2013) An environmental sociology for the twenty-first century. Annual Review of Sociology 39: 229-250.
Pietrosemoli S and Tang C. (2020) Animal welfare and production challenges associated with pasture pig systems: A review. Agriculture 10: 223.
Plume K. (2021) U.S. court slams brakes on Trump-era hog slaughter line speed rule; union cheers. Reuters.
Pollan M. (2006) The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, New York: Penguin Press.
Press M and Arnould EJ. (2011) Legitimating community supported agriculture through American pastoralist ideology. Journal of Consumer Culture 11: 168-194.
Ransom E. (2007) The rise of agricultural animal welfare standards as understood through a neo-institutional lens. International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food 15: 26.
Ransom E, Bain C and Worosz MR. (2010) Constructing credibility: using technoscience to legitimate strategies in agrifood governance. Journal of Rural Social Sciences 25: 160.
Reed R. (2021) ‘They’re lying to the public’ Harvard Law Today.
Retz S, Schiffer KJ, von Wenzlawowicz S, et al. (2014) Stunning effect of different rifle-bullets for slaughter of outdoor cattle. landtechnik 69: 296-300.
Rollin BE. (2008) The ethical imperative to control pain and suffering in farm animals. The Well‐Being of Farm Animals. Blackwell, 3-20.
Rollin BE. (2011) Animal rights as a mainstream phenomenon. Animals 1: 102-115.
Sandøe P, Corr SA, Lund TB, et al. (2019) Aggregating animal welfare indicators: can it be done in a transparent and ethically robust way? Animal Welfare 28: 67-76.
Sauers E. (2018) Smithfield Foods delivers on decade-old promise to phase out pregnant sow stalls in US. The Virginian Pilot.
Schillings J, Bennett R and Rose DC. (2021) Exploring the potential of precision livestock farming technologies to help address farm animal welfare. Frontiers in Animal Science 2.
Seibert L and Norwood FB. (2011) Production costs and animal welfare for four stylized hog production systems. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 14: 1-17.
Sevilla Guzmán E and Woodgate G. (1997) Sustainable rural development: From industrial agriculture to agroecology. Redclift, M. y G. Woodgate (eds.): 83-100.
Sevilla Guzmán E and Woodgate G. (2013) Agroecology: Foundations in agrarian social thought and sociological theory. Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems 37: 32-44.
Sharp J and Deemer D. (2014) Changing animal agriculture and the issue of farm animal welfare. Rural America in a Globalizing World: Problems and Prospects for the 2010s: 3-15.
Singer P and Mason J. (2007) The Ethics of What We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter: Rodale.
Slocum R. (2007) Whiteness, space and alternative food practice. Geoforum 38: 520-533.
Smithfield Foods. (2004) Smithfield Foods, Inc., 2004 Stewardship Report. 1-83.
Sodero S and Stoddart MCJ. (2015) A typology of diversion: legitimating discourses of tourism attraction, oil extraction and climate action in Newfoundland and Labrador. Environmental Sociology 1: 59-68.
Sossidou E, Dal Bosco A, Elson H, et al. (2011) Pasture-based systems for poultry production: implications and perspectives. World's Poultry Science Journal 67: 47-58.
Stafford K, Mellor D and Vogel K. (2021) Painful husbandry procedures in livestock and poultry. Improving animal welfare: a practical approach: 113-144.
Stafford KJ and Mellor DJ. (2010) Painful husbandry procedures in livestock and poultry. In: Grandin T (ed) Improving animal welfare: a practical approach. Cambridge: CABI, 88-114.
Stănescu V. (2019) Selling Eden: Environmentalism, local meat, and the postcommodity fetish. American Behavioral Scientist 63: 1120-1136.
Stănescu V and Stănescu D. (2020) Temple Grandin, humane meat, and the myth of consent. Disability and Animality: Crip Perspectives in Critical Animal Studies.
Stryker R. (1994) Rules, resources, and legitimacy processes: Some implications for social conflict, order, and change. American Journal of Sociology 99: 847.
Stuart D and Gunderson R. (2020) Human-animal relations in the capitalocene: environmental impacts and alternatives. Environmental Sociology 6: 68-81.
Stuart D and Worosz MR. (2012) Risk, anti-reflexivity, and ethical neutralization in industrial food processing. Agriculture and Human Values 29: 287-301.
Sullivan R, Amos N and Van de Weerd HA. (2017) Corporate reporting on farm animal welfare: An evaluation of global food companies’ discourse and disclosures on farm animal welfare. Animals 7: 17.
Thompson CJ and Coskuner-Balli G. (2007) Countervailing market responses to corporate co-optation and the ideological recruitment of consumption communities. Journal of Consumer Research 34: 135.
Thompson CJ and Coskuner-Balli G. (2007) Enchanting ethical consumerism: The case of community supported agriculture. Journal of Consumer Culture 7: 275-303.
Thompson PB. (2015) From Field to Fork: Food Ethics for Everyone: Oxford University Press, USA.
Todd R and Hynes M. (2017) Encountering the animal: Temple Grandin, slaughterhouses and the possibilities of a differential ontology. The Sociological Review 65: 729-744.
Tonsor GT, Lusk JL and Schroeder TC. (2018) Assessing beef demand determinants.
Tonsor GT and Wolf CA. (2019) US farm animal welfare: An economic perspective. Animals 9: 367.
Torrey S, Mohammadigheisar M, Dos Santos MN, et al. (2021) In pursuit of a better broiler: growth, efficiency, and mortality of 16 strains of broiler chickens. Poultry Science 100: 100955.
Tovey H. (2003) Theorising nature and society in sociology: the invisibility of animals. Sociologia Ruralis 43: 196-215.
Turner SP and Dwyer CM. (2007) Welfare assessment in extensive animal production systems: Challenges and opportunities. Animal Welfare 16: 189-192(184).
Twine R. (2020) Where are the nonhuman animals in the sociology of climate change? Society & Animals 1: 1-26.
Tyler TR. (2006) Psychological perspectives on legitimacy and legitimation. Annu. Rev. Psychol. 57: 375-400.
USDA. (2013) Notice of suspension issued to Brooksville Farms.
Vicente, JC. (2021) Cámaras de videovigilancia en mataderos: Obligatorias por Real Decreto a finales de 2021. Carnica.
Virginian-Pilot T. (2013) Timeline: The history of Smithfield Foods. Available at: https://www.pilotonline.com/business/article_a2a34b25-aeb2-5d29-ab26-54094bb62bfd.html.
Walzer P. (2011) Humane Society files SEC complaint against Smithfield. The Virginian Pilot.
Walzer P. (2011) Temple Grandin appears in Smithfield Foods videos. The Virginian Pilot.
Walzer P. (2015) Smithfield Foods continues gestation crate phase-out. The Virginian Pilot.
Weber K, Heinze KL and DeSoucey M. (2008) Forage for thought: Mobilizing codes in the movement for grass-fed meat and dairy products. Administrative Science Quarterly 53: 529-567.
Webster J. (2016) Animal welfare: Freedoms, dominions and “a life worth living”. Animals 6: 35.
Weil K. (2006) Killing them softly: Animal death, linguistic disability, and the struggle for ethics. Configurations 14: 87-96.
Weis T and Ellis RA. (2020) Animal functionality and interspecies relations in regenerative agriculture: Considering necessity and the possibilities of non-violence. Routledge Handbook of Sustainable and Regenerative Food Systems. Routledge, 141-153.
Whitfort AS. (2019) Animal welfare law, policy and the threat of “ag-gag”: One step forward, two steps back. Food Ethics 3: 77-90.
Wigham EE, Butterworth A and Wotton S. (2018) Assessing cattle welfare at slaughter–Why is it important and what challenges are faced? Meat Science 145: 171-177.
Winckler C. (2019) Assessing animal welfare at the farm level: Do we care sufficiently about the individual. Anim. Welf 28: 77-82.
Wohlgenant MK. (2013) Competition in the US meatpacking industry. Annu. Rev. Resour. Econ. 5: 1-12.
Woods J and Shearer JK. (2020) Recommended on-farm euthanasia practices. In: Grandin T (ed) Improving Animal Welfare: A Practical Approach (3rd Edition). Boston: CABI, 347-397.
World Health Organization. (2021) Terrestrial Animal Health Code.
Worosz MR, Knight AJ and Harris CK. (2008) Resilience in the US red meat industry: The roles of food safety policy. Agriculture and Human Values 25: 187-191.
Wynne B. (2002) Risk and environment as legitimatory discourses of technology: reflexivity inside out? Current Sociology 50: 459-477.
Wynne B. (2003) Seasick on the third wave? Subverting the hegemony of propositionalism: Response to Collins & Evans (2002). Social Studies of Science 33: 401-417.
Wynne B. (2006) Public engagement as a means of restoring public trust in science–hitting the notes, but missing the music? Public Health Genomics 9: 211-220.
Yeates JW. (2013) Individualism and nonindividualism in the application of nonhuman animal welfare to policy. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 16: 254-271.
York R. (2014) Guest editor's introduction. International Journal of Sociology 44: 3-9.

Funding data