9. Animal Welfare
Animal welfare is about the state of physical and mental wellbeing of animals and is also referred to as an animalâ€™s â€śquality of lifeâ€ť. In a legal sense, animal welfare is safeguarded by a duty to care for animals we are responsible for. Three main criteria are considered to contribute to an animalâ€™s welfare: 1) an ability for good feelings, 2) an ability for good health, and 3) an ability for natural behaviour1 (note that superscripts refer to References in Appendix 9A of this section). The requirements for good welfare have also recently been described as animals simply â€śbeing healthy and having what they wantâ€ť2. Whichever definition is used, it is generally accepted that animals have feelings and that these feelings are influenced by the situations that the animals live in and encounter. Because of the major role we have in determining those situations for animals in production systems, we have a clear obligation to not only minimize the potential for poor welfare but also attempt to provide good welfare. There is no doubt that animal welfare is currently an important area of public concern and consumer surveys have shown an interest and desire for more information about the welfare status of food products. This requirement is being met in a variety of ways from legislation to producer body and retailer led farm standards and product labels.
Concern for the welfare of animals used for food production arose as a result of intensification of animal production practices during the 1950â€™s and 60â€™s and what was seen as exploitation of animals at the expense of their living conditions, such as crowded and barren environments. This led to a government inquiry in the UK in 1965 that was a precursor to the creation of The Five Freedoms by the Farm Animal Welfare Council (Table 1). The Five Freedoms define the criteria for good welfare in a way that is more specific and applicable to animal production systems than the broader definitions described above.
Importantly, as a producer, good animal welfare is not something you can give directly, but you can provide an environment where good welfare is likely to occur for a specific group of animals. The Five Freedoms can be used as a guide to best practice for raising farm animals to help ensure that good welfare is met and this is why The Five Freedoms form the basis for Unilever Good Agricultural Practices.
Table 1. The Five Freedoms
|1. Freedom from Hunger and 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 Normal Behaviour||by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animalâ€™s own kind.|
|5. Freedom from Fear and Distress||by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.|
For general animal welfare guides, you can refer to: