Killing in plural? On animal life assessments by veterinarians and the role of euthanasia

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionAcademicpeer-review


In society and within the veterinary profession, a plurality of views is seen on killing of animals. This plurality of views leads to diversity in the characteristics of end of animal life (EOL) discussions. It is in that perspective remarkable that euthanasia as a concept is used consistently throughout the various disciplines of the veterinary practice. In this paper we will explore how the concept of euthanasia can function as a bridging concept in ethics for EOL decisions and how it enables comparison of veterinary actions in different disciplines of the veterinary practice. The former requires conceptual clarity. Using existing literature, we define four core elements of the concept of euthanasia in the veterinary practice, namely: (1) a deliberate decision to kill an animal; (2) the act of killing performed in such a way that it does not come with any avoidable pain, distress or suffering ; (3) the intention to act in the best interest of the animal by preventing (further) suffering ; and (4) the determination of the agents to act in the interest of the animal as much as possible when a conflict of interest arises. Building on this, we argue that euthanasia may not function as a bridging concept, but it has the ability to compare various actions in different disciplines of the veterinary practice. Furthermore, euthanasia can enable discussion between veterinarians and the general public on EOL related questions including the veterinary role and responsibilities at the EOL. In conclusion, we will show how this desk study functions as building block for the design of a planned empirical study on (moral) attitudes of veterinarians on EOL discussions that allows for comparing the role of veterinarians in various contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationJustice and food security in a changing climate
EditorsHanna Schübel, Ivo Wallimann-Helmer
PublisherWageningen Academic Publishers
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)978-90-8686-915-2
ISBN (Print)978-90-8686-362-4
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jun 2021
EventEurSafe 2021 -
Duration: 24 Jun 202126 Jun 2021


ConferenceEurSafe 2021


  • euthanasia
  • veterinary ethics
  • animal ethics


Dive into the research topics of 'Killing in plural? On animal life assessments by veterinarians and the role of euthanasia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this