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Animal welfare

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10 months ago

Animal welfare refers to the physical and emotional state that is impacted by the environment in which the animal lives and works, human attitudes and practices, and resources available to it. Welfare is an ever changing state in which all of these factors can and will cause welfare to fluctuate between good, bad and somewhere in between on a near constant basis. This portray that there can be good and bad experiences during the animal’s life, but as far as possible health, life and comfort sustaining needs are met.





Animal welfare needs. An animal’s welfare will remain poor unless all of these levels of need are met.

Why should people be concerned about animal welfare?

Within the discipline of animal welfare we consider science, ethics and law. In some cases we have to be concerned because the law says so, in other ways we should because evidence leads to evolving ethical views on what is right.

Domesticated animals work hard to provide us with many of the things that enable us to survive and thrive (e.g. meat, milk, draught power) so it is our responsibility to ensure they have a good quality of life.

Just as we humans expect to be paid, or at least reap some personal benefit from a long day of hard work, animals deserve support for all the hard work they do that makes our lives easier and secures our livelihoods.

In some countries, legislation is in place to protect animal welfare and it is a legal requirement to provide for the needs of animals.

An animal’s welfare matters regardless of the function they serve. Good animal welfare is a necessity not a luxury.

There are multiple existing concepts of what animal welfare means, which are used in different ways for different reasons. Here are the main ones and how they have been used.

Concepts of Animal Welfare

1. Freedom from hunger or thirst - by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour

2. Freedom from discomfort - by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area

3. Freedom from pain, injury or disease by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment

4. Freedom to express (most) normal behavior by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind.

5. Freedom from fear and distress - by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.

This concept of animal welfare focuses on the factors which affect animal welfare. These include:

1. Human attitudes and practices (e.g. myths) Animal itself

2. Resources available

– Physical (e.g. shelter)

– Human (e.g. farriers)

– Information /knowledge (e.g. prevention)

3. Environment animal lives and works (the surrounding area)

Measuring Impact on Animal Welfare

Why must animal welfare be measured?

1. To provide a baseline to monitor and evaluate the impact of a project on the animal’s welfare

2. To be as objective as possible

3. To compare the welfare status of animals between different locations or communities .

4. To identify whether welfare issues vary by factors such as season, work type, animal age, gender or owner practices. This information is then useful to tailor a programme towards a particular group or time, or to target animals with the worst problems.

5. To identify the welfare issues which are occurring within an equine population and community

6. To identify the prevalence and severity of different welfare issues

7. To learn if changes are due to the intervention or they only reflect common trends in the local area

8. To learn if intervention is making a positive or negative difference

9. To enable targets to be generated to exit the area, based on the current welfare status and the potential for what can be achieved.

How is animal welfare measured?

The basic principle of how to measure animal welfare involves assessing inputs and outcomes.

Inputs are the resource or environment-based indicators (RBI). These determine the potential of the resources or the environment, to provide good or poor welfare. Outcomes, such as improved welfare or social attitude to animals, are measured by animal based indicators (ABI) and human based indicators (HBI). These reflect the actual status of the animal or the human behaviour towards the animal.

Overall, these measures must be combined to consider the animal’s state, as described in the definitions, welfare is not made of a single component.

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10 months ago
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