Farm animal welfare metrics briefing 2018
It is vital that farm animal welfare metrics are incorporated into a package of sustainability metrics.
The Food Ethics Council believes that in a morally progressive society good farm animal welfare is an important end in itself. We should respond to the challenges presented by today’s farming methods, recognising sentience and the importance of the five freedoms, but also act to build positive welfare models, which value longevity, autonomy and relationships. Such models should not only avoid negative factors but also provide opportunities for animals to have positive experiences such as the ability to perform their natural behaviours, enjoy fresh air and daylight and experience the joy of living. It is also important to recognise that each animal is an individual, not just a member of a herd or flock. We also believe that good farm animal welfare is essential if we are to deliver in-the-round environmental progress. Genuine sustainability must take account of environmental, social, and economic dimensions – for example soil fertility, farm animal welfare, well treated and well trained staff, and the market for quality food. It is extremely difficult to achieve good environmental outcomes while continuing to keep farm animals in the most intensive farm systems, which rely heavily on high protein feeds produced in arable monocultures, on high levels of fossil fuel and water use, and on routine medications often including human-critical antibiotics.
Farm animal welfare metrics themselves should be considered from birth to death on a species by species basis, but the core principles are common and can be used to help ensure a good life for all farm animals. We support the Farm Animal Welfare Council’s Good Life Framework, and believe that to obtain an accurate picture of welfare, outcome measures should focus on:
• Disease (including the use of antibiotics)
• Injury (including bruising, feather pecking, and mutilations such as tail docking)
• Mobility (for example, gait scores)
• Behaviour (an animal’s ability to display behaviours, which meet their welfare wants and needs – the bedrock of farm animal welfare science)
• Welfare during transport and at slaughter should be included in a national metrics approach, and the use of both input and outcome measures introduced for all slaughter methods. Slaughter metrics should cover transport, lairage, handling, and slaughter itself.
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