Location: Livestock Behavior ResearchTitle: The use of animal welfare indicators
Submitted to: International Conference on Pig Welfare
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/1/2015
Publication Date: N/A
Technical Abstract: At any given time, an animal’s welfare ranges on a scale of very good to very poor. It contains both physical elements and mental elements. The physical elements, such as behaviour, physiology, health, productivity and pathology, can be measured relatively easily, in an experimental setting, but the mental elements, i.e. emotional state, remain much harder to quantify. Further refinement of current measures and the development and validation of new measures, may ultimately enable us to determine an animal’s mental state and so be able to really quantify an animal’s welfare to the satisfaction of our stakeholders, including the consumer. However, superimposed upon this challenge are the application of animal welfare indicators to the production chain setting (farm, transport, and slaughter) and the difficulties of identifying individuals at risk within a group. A major development in on-farm assessment was the recent Welfare Quality® project funded by the E.U. This project has resulted in the publication of assessment protocols for several species, including pigs, with a focus on animal-based measures chosen on the basis of validity, reliability and feasibility, and also objectivity. The Welfare Quality® pig protocol is a fine starting point and it leaves the door open to modification of its measures as scientific discovery increases our knowledge. For future public acceptability and the sustainability of pig meat production, it is essential that we continue to assess welfare across the chain, continue to improve our methods of assessment and be transparent in our recording and reporting, self-evaluating and amending current practice as necessary to improve pig welfare and maintain consumer trust.