The concept of animal welfare includes three elements:
- the natural biological functioning of the animal (which, among other things, means ensuring that the animal is healthy and well-fed);
- its emotional state (absence of negative emotions such as pain and chronic fear) and
- its ability to express certain standard behaviours (Fraser et al., 1997).
From a practical point of view, a clear indication that a behaviour is important is when an animal shows a stress response or disturbed reactions when prevented from performing that behaviour. Nest-building by a pregnant sow or the rutting reflex in a pig are examples of such behaviour. The three principles are often complementary (Mendel, 2001).
All three of these elements are included in many definitions of animal welfare. The World Organisation for Animal Health considers an animal to have proper welfare if it is healthy, housed in appropriate conditions, well nourished, able to express innate behaviours and not suffering from pain, fear and stress (WOAH, 2008).
According to the ‘List of Five Freedoms’, the welfare of an animal is ensured when the following five conditions are met (FAWC, 1992; 1993):
“List of Five Freedoms”:
- Freedom from hunger and thirst – by providing easy access to fresh water and food to maintain full health and vitality,
- Freedom from discomfort – by providing a suitable environment, including shelter and a comfortable place to rest,
- Freedom from pain, injury and disease – through prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment,
- Freedom to express normal behaviour – by providing sufficient space, appropriate equipment and the company of animals of the same species,
- Freedom from fear and stress – by providing conditions that prevent mental suffering.
Using the assessment according to the ‘List of Five Freedoms’, we can quickly check whether the animals’ welfare has been properly taken care of:
Stosując ocenę według „Listy Pięciu Wolności” możemy szybko sprawdzić, czy zwierzęta mają prawidłowy dobrostan:
|Proper welfare||Lack of welfare|
|Feed and water||Access to water and feed, balanced ration in terms of physiological and production needs.||Lack of water and feed (starvation), inadequate quality of feed.|
|Comfort and environment||Optimal environmental conditions for the species, including microclimate and maintenance conditions.||Poor environmental conditions (e.g. cold or too hot), too small an area.|
|Pain-free and healthy||Health, movement, absence of injury, care and appropriate treatment.||Illness, injury.|
|Behaviour||Ability to express normal behaviour, appropriate social composition of the group.||Abnormal behaviour or inability to express species-specific behaviour (e.g. rutting, burrowing, foraging, etc.).|
|Stress and fear||No acute stress and fear, peace and quiet, physical comfort, access to feed and water, ability to express the caring instinct.||Maltreatment by staff, hunger and thirst (also nutrition inadequate for nutritional needs), pain and performing procedures without anaesthesia, fear, frustration, boredom.|
Well-being can also be estimated in a simple way by rating it as low or high:
Low level of well-being
- incidence of disease in animals,
- reduction in animal immunity,
- bodily impairments (e.g. technopathies),
- poor capacity for growth and development,
- reduced levels of adaptability in stressful situations,
- manifestations of various forms of abnormal behaviour – behavioural pathologies.
High level of well-being
- clinically healthy animals,
- normative level of physiological indicators,
- manifesting a variety of forms of normal behaviour and maintaining normal behavioural patterns.
The most common welfare problems for major livestock species:
|Animal species||Critical points and welfare issues|
|Cattle||Immobilisation, cubicle area, avoiding single tethering, light requirements, litter maintenance vs. slatted floors, access to paddocks and pasture, weaning date of calves, group stability and aggressive behaviour, accurate determination of feed needs, restriction of certain practices (deconditioning, castration), use of electrical stimulators.|
|Pigs||Pen area, litter maintenance vs. slatted floors, roughage supply, avoiding keeping animals singly, weaning age of piglets, environmental enrichment, hormonal treatment, use of analgesics for castration, use of electrical stimulators.|
|Poultry||Light requirements for broilers, stocking density in enclosures, number of perches and nests, access to sand baths, frequency of animal condition checks, proper microclimate and avoidance of heat stress, problem of cannibalism and pterophagy.|