Respect for animals - with what implications? : A critical policy analysis of the Swedish Animal Welfare Act

University essay from Stockholms universitet/Statsvetenskapliga institutionen

Author: Camilla Björkbom; [2020]

Keywords: ;

Abstract: In this thesis I interrogate the concept of respect for animals, or intrinsic value, in the new Swedish Animal Welfare Act adopted in 2018. I draw on poststructural theory and conceptual input from political theory as well as Martha Nussbaum’s capability approach. Through the WPR method I analyze government propositions and official government reports between 2011 and 2018, related to the new animal welfare act. The previous Animal Welfare Act from 1988 is used to assess conceptual change in the thirty years that have passed between the two animal welfare acts. Even though respect for animals does not have material legal impact for the animals and cannot be said to constitute a conceptual shift compared to the previous law adopted in 1988, I draw attention to the political implications of the introduction of respect for animals. By analyzing the problem representations and the conceptual logics in the documents, I show how discourses around competitiveness, profitability and productivity in the animal-based food sector were aligned with the global threats of climate change mitigation and antimicrobial resistance, and how these values were seen as state responsibilities while the protection of animals’ intrinsic value became seen as an individual moral responsibility. As a consequence the policy question of what the recognition of animals’ intrinsic value in the law ought to mean as a political issue of justice remained unaddressed. I also show how the emphasis on science in the balancing of animal interests against economic interests has limiting effects on citizens’ political agency. 

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