Livestock production has been confronted with several epidemics over the last decades. The morality of common animal disease strategies—stamping out and vaccination—is being debated and provokes controversies among farmers, authorities and the broader public. Given the complexity and controversy of choosing an appropriate control strategy, this article explores the potential of nano-enabled diagnostics in future livestock production. At first glance, these applications offer promising opportunities for better animal disease surveillance. By significantly shortening the reaction time from diagnosis to appropriate control, they could complement the current disease management strategies. Although nano-enabled diagnostics will not make livestock disease eradication strategies redundant or completely free of the culling of infected animals, these diagnostics could significantly reduce the number of culled animals and animal suffering. This article aims to demonstrate that the ethical assessment of advanced diagnostics can build on the experiences with decision making in biomedical ethics where nonmaleficence, beneficence, autonomy and justice serve as important benchmarks. Nano-enabled diagnostics may be an ethically sound solution if it can resolve the dilemma between stamping out and vaccination in favor of the latter and if it can balance the autonomy–paternalism dilemma between farmers and authorities. The technology should allow to be switched on and off by farmers, whilst simultaneously allowing for a weak paternalism on behalf of authorities in order to benefit the farmer and broader society and to protect them from harm.
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