Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/6/2016
Publication Date: N/A
Technical Abstract: The expected human population growth to 9 billion people by 2050 will impact all animals with which we share this planet. We will see more farm animals, greater companion animal ownership, increasing feral populations, increased use of laboratory animals and threatened wildlife species diversity, impacting zoos. At any one time, there are around 27 billion farm animals, 1-2 billion companion animals, 120 million laboratory animals and 1-2 million zoo animals under our care. All should be subject to acceptable, species-specific, minimal standards of care to ensure their welfare, guided by the ‘five freedoms’ and the ‘three Rs’ and enforced by legislation where necessary. Putting standards in place is just one part of the equation however, and measuring compliance can prove challenging. Monitoring and assessing animal welfare within farm, laboratory, zoo or pet animal environments should encompass both animal-based and resource-based measures and these measures should be science-based, objective and easily quantifiable, given the common pressures of many animals, limited resources and limited time. Many of the current welfare assessment protocols use a combination of animal- and resource-based measures, are carried out by direct observation and are based on easily recognizable health and behavioral indicators of the animals, together with visual assessment of the physical environment. Within large groups however, recognition of welfare-compromised individuals is difficult. In intensive farm animal production, there has been recent focus on the development of precision livestock farming (PLF) which involves the use of advanced technologies to help farmers monitor and manage their animals. Although such systems can improve animal welfare, even at an individual animal level, global application is currently limited by a combination of production system suitability and financial resources. As technology continues to develop, we will see smaller, cheaper, more robust sensors, and the inclusion of physiological indicators of animal welfare. The development of smart phone or tablet apps to aid welfare assessment, such as i-WatchTurkey, would be beneficial but these must include offline recording capability. There is also undoubtedly existing technologies being used in other disciplines which could have application in animal welfare assessment and we need greater communication between engineers, welfare scientists and veterinarians working in diverse settings across the world.