14 march 2007
Animal welfare is the physical and psychological well-being of animals. It is measured by indicators including behavior, physiology, longevity, and reproduction.
The term animal welfare can also mean human concern for animal welfare or a position in a debate on animal ethics and animal rights. This position is measured by attitudes to different types of animal uses.
Systematic concern for animal welfare can be based on awareness that non-human animals are sentient and that consideration should be given to their well-being, especially when they are used by humans. These concerns can include how animals are killed for food, how they are used for scientific research, how they are kept as pets, and how human activities affect the survival of endangered species.
An ancient object of concern in some civilizations, animal welfare began to take a larger place in Western public policy in 19th-century Britain. Today it is a significant focus of interest or activity in veterinary science, in ethics, and in animal welfare organizations.
There are two forms of criticism of the concept of animal welfare, coming from diametrically opposite positions. One view, dating back centuries, asserts that animals are not consciously aware and hence are unable to experience poor welfare. The other view is based on the animal rights position that animals should not be regarded as property and any use of animals by humans is unacceptable. Some authorities thus treat animal welfare and animal rights as two opposing positions. Accordingly, some animal right proponents argue that the perception of better animal welfare facilitates continued and increased exploitation of animals. Others see the increasing concern for animal welfare as incremental steps towards animal rights.
In animal ethics, the term animal welfare often means animal welfarism.
In the Saunders Comprehensive Veterinary Dictionary, animal welfare is defined as "the avoidance of abuse and exploitation of animals by humans by maintaining appropriate standards of accommodation, feeding and general care, the prevention and treatment of disease and the assurance of freedom from harassment, and unnecessary discomfort and pain."
Donald Broom defines the welfare of an animal as "its state as regards its attempts to cope with its environment. This state includes how much it is having to do to cope, the extent to which it is succeeding in or failing to cope, and its associated feelings." He states that "Welfare will vary over a continuum from very good to very poor and studies of welfare will be most effective if a wide range of measures is used."
Yew-Kwang Ng defines animal welfare in terms of welfare economics: "Welfare biology is the study of living things and their environment with respect to their welfare (defined as net happiness, or enjoyment minus suffering). Despite difficulties of ascertaining and measuring welfare and relevancy to normative issues, welfare biology is a positive science."
Animal welfarism, also known simply as welfarism or animal welfare, is the position that it is morally acceptable for humans to use non-human animals, provided that adverse effects on animal welfare are minimized as far as possible, short of not using the animals at all. An example of welfarist thought is Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's meat manifesto. Point three of eight is:
Think about the animals that the meat you eat comes from. Are you at all concerned about how they have been treated? Have they lived well? Have they been fed on safe, appropriate foods? Have they been cared for by someone who respects them and enjoys contact with them? Would you like to be sure of that? Perhaps it's time to find out a bit more about where the meat you eat comes from. Or to buy from a source that reassures you about these points.
Robert Garner describes the welfarist position as the most widely-held in modern society. He states that one of the best attempts to clarify this position is given by Robert Nozick:
Consider the following (too minimal) position about the treatment of animals. So that we can easily refer to it, let us label this position "utilitarianism for animals, Kantianism for people." It says: (1) maximize the total happiness of all living beings; (2) place stringent side constraints on what one may do to human beings. Human beings may not be used or sacrificed for the benefit of others; animals may be used or sacrificed for the benefit of other people or animals only if those benefits are greater than the loss inflicted.
Welfarism is often contrasted with the animal rights and animal liberation positions, which hold that animals should not be used by humans, and should not be regarded as their property. However, it has been argued that both welfarism and animal liberation only make sense if you assume that animals have "subjective welfare". There is some evidence that the observed difference between human belief in animal welfare and animal rights originates from two distinct attitudes towards animals: attitudes towards suffering, and reverence for animals.
Motivations to improve the welfare of animals may stem from many factors including sympathy, empathy, utility,genes (inherited traits), and memes (cultural factors). Motivations can be based on self-interest. For example, animal producers might improve welfare in order to meet consumer demand for products from high welfare systems. Typically, stronger concern is given to animals that are useful to humans (farm animals, pets etc.) than those that are not (pests, wild animals etc.). The different level of sentience that various species possess, or the perception of such differences, also create a shifting level of concern. Somewhat related to this is size, with larger animals being favored.
There is some evidence to suggest that empathy is an inherited trait (genetic needs). Multiple studies have found women have greater concern for animals than men, possibly the result of it being an evolutionarily beneficial trait in societies where women take care of domesticated animals while men hunt. Interestingly, more women have animal phobias than men. But animal phobias are at least partly genetically determined, and this indicates that attitudes towards animals have a genetic component. Also, children exhibit empathy for animals at a very early age, when external influences cannot be an adequate explanation.
Laws punishing cruelty to animals tend to not just be based on welfare concerns but the belief that such behavior has repercussions toward the treatment of other humans by the animal abusers. Another argument against animal cruelty is based on aesthetics. Within the context of animal research, many scientific organisations believe that improved animal welfare will provide improved scientific outcomes. If an animal in a laboratory is suffering stress or pain it could negatively affect the results of the research.
Cultural factors that affect people's concern for animal welfare include affluence, education, tradition, religious beliefs, and political ideology. Increased affluence in many regions for the past few decades afforded consumers the disposable income to purchase products from high welfare systems. The adaptation of more economically efficient farming systems in these regions were at the expense of animal welfare and to the financial benefit of consumers, both of which were factors in driving the demand for higher welfare for farm animals. A 2006 survey concluded that a majority (63%) of EU citizens "show some willingness to change their usual place of shopping in order to be able to purchase more animal welfare-friendly products."
Interest in animal welfare continues to grow, with increasing attention being paid to it by the media, governmental and non-governmental organizations. The volume of scientific research on animal welfare has also increased significantly in some countries.
History, principles, practice
See also: Animal rights#Development of the idea and Five freedoms
By the 21st century, promoting the interests of animals was mainstream and widespread. This German stamp uses the polar bear Knut to advocate for environmental responsibility.
Systematic concern for the well-being of other animals probably arose in the Indus Valley Civilization as the religious ancestors return in animal form, and that animals must therefore be killed with the respect due to a human. This belief is exemplified in the existing religion, Jainism, and in varieties of other Indian religions. Other religions, specially those with roots in the Abrahamic religions, treat animals as the property of their owners, codifying rules for their care and slaughter intended to limit the distress, pain and fear animals experience under human control.
From the outset in 1822, when British MP Richard Martin shepherded a bill through Parliament offering protection from cruelty to cattle, horses, and sheep (earning himself the nickname Humanity Dick), the welfare approach has had human morality, and humane behaviour, at its central concern. Martin was among the founders of the world's first animal welfare organization, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or SPCA, in 1824. In 1840, Queen Victoria gave the society her blessing, and it became the RSPCA. The society used members' donations to employ a growing network of inspectors, whose job was to identify abusers, gather evidence, and report them to the authorities.
But significant progress in animal welfare did not take place until the late 20th century. In 1965, the UK government commissioned an investigation—led by Professor Roger Brambell—into the welfare of intensively farmed animals, partly in response to concerns raised in Ruth Harrison's 1964 book, Animal Machines. On the basis of Professor Brambell's report, the UK government set up the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee in 1967, which became the Farm Animal Welfare Council in 1979. The committee's first guidelines recommended that animals require the freedoms to "stand up, lie down, turn around, groom themselves and stretch their limbs". The guidelines have since been elaborated to become known as the five freedoms:
Freedom from thirst and hunger – by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour.
Freedom from discomfort – by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.
Freedom from pain, injury, and disease – by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment.
Freedom to express most normal behavior – by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal's own kind.
Freedom from fear and distress – by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.
A number of animal welfare organisations are campaigning to achieve a Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare (UDAW) at the United Nations. In principle, the Universal Declaration will call on the United Nations to recognise animals as sentient beings, capable of experiencing pain and suffering, and to recognise that animal welfare is an issue of importance as part of the social development of nations worldwide. The campaign to achieve the UDAW is being co-ordinated by the World Society for the Protection of Animals, with a core working group including Compassion in World Farming, the RSPCA, and the Humane Society International (the international branch of HSUS).
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has defined animal welfare as: "An animal is in a good state of welfare if (as indicated by scientific evidence) it is healthy, comfortable, well nourished, safe, able to express innate behavior, and if it is not suffering from unpleasant states such as pain, fear, and distress." They have offered the following eight principles for developing and evaluating animal welfare policies.
The responsible use of animals for human purposes, such as companionship, food, fiber, recreation, work, education, exhibition, and research conducted for the benefit of both humans and animals, is consistent with the Veterinarian's Oath.
Decisions regarding animal care, use, and welfare shall be made by balancing scientific knowledge and professional judgment with consideration of ethical and societal values.
Animals must be provided water, food, proper handling, health care, and an environment appropriate to their care and use, with thoughtful consideration for their species-typical biology and behavior.
Animals should be cared for in ways that minimize fear, pain, stress, and suffering.
Procedures related to animal housing, management, care, and use should be continuously evaluated, and when indicated, refined or replaced.
Conservation and management of animal populations should be humane, socially responsible, and scientifically prudent.
Animals shall be treated with respect and dignity throughout their lives and, when necessary, provided a humane death.
The veterinary profession shall continually strive to improve animal health and welfare through scientific research, education, collaboration, advocacy, and the development of legislation and regulations.
Egg laying hens (chickens) in a factory farm battery cage (above) can be contrasted with free range chickens (below) who are given space to roam and a shelter for shade.
Concern for farm animals is mainly focused on factory farming, where farm animals are raised in confinement at high stocking density. Issues revolve around the limiting of natural behavior in animals (see battery cage, veal and gestation crate), and invasive procedures such as debeaking and mulesing. Other issues include methods of animal slaughter, especially ritual slaughter.
While the killing of animals need not necessarily involve suffering, the general public considers killing an animal an act that reduces its welfare. This leads to concerns with premature slaughtering, such as the chick culling. This applies in a lesser extent to all food animals.
Animal welfare science is an emerging field that seeks to answer questions raised by the use of animals, such as whether hens are frustrated when confined in cages, or whether the psychological well-being of animals in laboratories can be maintained.
In the United States, a federal law called the Humane Slaughter Act (P.L. 85-765; 7 U.S.C. § 1901 et seq.) was designed to decrease suffering of livestock during slaughter.
The Georgia Animal Protection Act of 1986, was a state law enacted in response to the inhumane treatment of companion animals by a pet store chain in Atlanta. The Act provided for the licensing and regulation of pet shops, stables, kennels, and animal shelters, and established, for the first time, minimum standards of care. Additional provisions, called the Humane Euthanasia Act were added in 1990. The law was further expanded and strengthened with the Animal Protection Act of 2000.
On November 5, 2002, Florida voters passed Amendment 10, an amendment to the Florida Constitution banning the confinement of pregnant pigs in gestation crates. The Amendment passed by a margin of 55% for and 45% against. On November 7, 2006, Arizona voters passed Proposition 204 with 62% support. The measure prohibits the confinement of calves in veal crates and breeding sows in gestation crates. On June 28, 2007, Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski signed a measure into law prohibiting the confinement of pigs in gestation crates (SB 694, 74th Leg. Assembly, Regular Session). On May 14, 2008, Colorado Governor Bill Ritter signed into law a bill, SB 201, that phases out gestation crates and veal crates. Also during 2008, California passed Proposition 2, known as the "Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act", which orders new space requirements for farm animals starting in 2015.
Legislation in the European Union aims to reduce animal suffering during slaughter.
Germany, Sweden, and Austria have all banned battery cages for egg-laying hens. European Union Council Directive 1999/74/EC came into act on January 1, 2012, meaning that conventional battery cages for laying hens are now banned across the Union.
The use of animals in scientific, medical, and business laboratories remains controversial. Animal welfare advocates push for minimum standards to ensure the health and safety of those animals used for tests.
In the US, every institution that uses vertebrate animals for federally funded laboratory research must have an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC). Each local IACUC reviews research protocols and conducts evaluations of the institution's animal care and use which includes the results of inspections of facilities that are required by law. the IACUC committee must assess the steps taken to "enhance animal well-being" before research can take place. This includes research on farm animals. According to the National Institutes of Health Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare, researchers must try to minimize distress in animals whenever possible: "Animals used in research and testing may experience pain from induced diseases, procedures, and toxicity. The Public Health Service (PHS) Policy and Animal Welfare Regulations (AWRs) state that procedures that cause more than momentary or slight pain or distress should be performed with appropriate sedation, analgesia, or anesthesia. However, research and testing studies sometimes involve pain that cannot be relieved with such agents because they would interfere with the scientific objectives of the study. Accordingly, federal regulations require that IACUCs determine that discomfort to animals will be limited to that which is unavoidable for the conduct of scientifically valuable research, and that unrelieved pain and distress will only continue for the duration necessary to accomplish the scientific objectives. The PHS Policy and AWRs further state that animals that would otherwise suffer severe or chronic pain and distress that cannot be relieved should be painlessly killed at the end of the procedure, or if appropriate, during the procedure."
The National Research Council's Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals also serves as a guide to improve welfare for animals used in research in the US. The Federation of Animal Science Societies' Guide for the Care and Use of Agricultural Animals in Research and Teaching is a resource addressing welfare concerns in farm animal research. Laboratory animals in the US are also protected under the Animal Welfare Act. The United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) enforces the Animal Welfare Act. APHIS inspects animal research facilities regularly and reports are published online.
In the UK, every individual conducting research, every animal research facility, and every project involving animals must be licensed by the Government Home Office. Those applying for a license must explain why such research cannot be done through non-animal methods. The project must also pass an ethical review panel which aims to decide if the potential benefits outweigh any suffering for the animals involved.
Other welfare issues includes the quality of animal sources and housing conditions.
American philosopher Tom Regan is an animal rights advocate who has criticized the animal welfare movement for not going far enough to protect animals' interests.
At one time, many people denied that animals could feel anything, and thus the concept of animal welfare was meaningless. For example, many Cartesians were of this opinion. Descartes wrote that animals act "without consciousness", much like a machine. In addition, there are accounts of Descartes visiting slaughter houses to observe how animals died. Believing that the animals were devoid of sentience, Descartes thought the death throes of animals was akin to "taking apart a spring-driven clock". In the Discourse, published in 1637, Descartes wrote that the ability to reason and use language involves being able to respond in complex ways to all the "contingencies of life", something that animals "clearly cannot do". He argued from this that any sounds animals make do not constitute language, but are simply "automatic responses to external stimuli".
Animal rights advocates, such as Gary L. Francione and Tom Regan, argue that the animal welfare position (advocating for the betterment of the condition of animals, but without abolishing animal use) is inconsistent in logic and ethically unacceptable. However, there are some animal rights groups, such as PETA, which support animal welfare measures in the short term to alleviate animal suffering until all animal use is ended. According to PETA's Ingrid Newkirk in an interview with Wikinews, there are two issues in animal welfare and animal rights. "If I only could have one thing, it would be to end suffering," said Newkirk. "If you could take things from animals and kill animals all day long without causing them suffering, then I would take it...Everybody should be able to agree that animals should not suffer if you kill them or steal from them by taking the fur off their backs or take their eggs, whatever. But you shouldn't put them through torture to do that."
Abolitionism (animal rights) holds that focusing on animal welfare not only fails to challenge animal suffering, but may actually prolong it by making the exercise of property rights over animals appear less unattractive. The abolitionists' objective is to secure a moral and legal paradigm shift, whereby animals are no longer regarded as property.
Animal welfare organizations
The WSPA was founded in 1981 to fight animal cruelty.
World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE): The intergovernmental organisation responsible for improving animal health worldwide. The OIE has been established "for the purpose of projects of international public utility relating to the control of animal diseases, including those affecting humans and the promotion of animal welfare and animal production food safety".
World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA): Tackles animal cruelty across the globe. WSPAs objectives include; helping people understand the critical importance of good animal welfare, encouraging nations to commit to animal-friendly practices and building the scientific case for the better treatment of animals. They are global in a sense that they have consultative status at the Council of Europe and collaborate with national governments, the United Nations, the Food and Agriculture Organization and the world Organization for Animal Health.
Canadian Council on Animal Care: The national organization responsible for overseeing the care and use of animals involved in Canadian Science.
Canadian Federation of Humane Societies (CFHS): The only national organization representing human societies and SPCAs in Canada. They provide leadership on animal welfare issues and spread the message across Canada.
The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association: Brings in veterinary involvement to animal welfare. Their objective is to share this concern of animals with all members of the profession, with the general public, with government at all levels, and with other organizations such as the CFHS, which have similar concerns.
National Farm Animal Care Council: Their objectives are to facilitate collaboration among members with respect to farm animal care issues in Canada, to facilitate information sharing and communication, and to monitor trends and initiatives in both the domestic and international market place.
National Office of Animal Health: A British organisation that represents its members drawn from the animal medicines industry.
Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Ontario's animal welfare organization, a registered charity composed of over 50 communities.