Businesses and professions must stay in accord with social ethics, or risk losing their autonomy. A major social ethical issue that has emerged in the past four decades is the treatment of animals in various areas of human use. Society’s moral concern has outgrown the traditional ethic of animal cruelty that began in biblical times and is encoded in the laws of all civilized societies. There are five major reasons for this new social concern, most importantly, the replacement of husbandry-based agriculture with industrial agriculture. This loss of husbandry to industry has threatened the traditional fair contract between humans and animals, and resulted in significant amounts of animal suffering arising on four different fronts. Because such suffering is not occasioned by cruelty, a new ethic for animals was required to express social concerns. Since ethics proceed from preexisting ethics rather than ex nihilo, society has looked to its ethic for humans, appropriately modified, to find moral categories applicable to animals. This concept of legally encoded rights for animals has emerged as a plausible vehicle for reform.
Rollin, B.E. Animal Rights as a Mainstream Phenomenon. Animals 2011, 1, 102-115.