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Acta Agriculturae Scandinavica, Section A - Animal Science
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The Welfare Quality® project and beyond: Safeguarding farm animal well-
H. J. Blokhuisa; I. Veissierb; M. Mielec; B. Jonesd
a Department of Animal Environment and Health, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences,
Uppsala, Sweden b INRA, Saint-Genes-Champanelle, France c School of City and Regional Planning,
Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK d Animal Behaviour and Welfare Consultancy, Edinburgh, UK
Online publication date: 20 October 2010
To cite this Article Blokhuis, H. J. , Veissier, I. , Miele, M. and Jones, B.(2010) 'The Welfare Quality® project and beyond:
Safeguarding farm animal well-being', Acta Agriculturae Scandinavica, Section A - Animal Science, 60: 3, 129 — 140
To link to this Article: DOI: 10.1080/09064702.2010.523480
Full terms and conditions of use:
This article may be used for research, teaching and private study purposes. Any substantial or
systematic reproduction, re-distribution, re-selling, loan or sub-licensing, systematic supply or
distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden.
The publisher does not give any warranty express or implied or make any representation that the contents
will be complete or accurate or up to date. The accuracy of any instructions, formulae and drug doses
should be independently verified with primary sources. The publisher shall not be liable for any loss,
actions, claims, proceedings, demand or costs or damages whatsoever or howsoever caused arising directly
or indirectly in connection with or arising out of the use of this material.
The Welfare Qualityproject and beyond: Safeguarding farm animal
Department of Animal Environment and Health, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden,
UR1213 Herbivores, F63-122 Saint-Genes-Champanelle, France,
School of City and Regional Planning, Cardiff
University, Glamorgan Building, King Edward VII Avenue, Cardiff CF10 3WA, UK, and
Animal Behaviour and
Welfare Consultancy, 110 Blackford Avenue, Edinburgh EH9 3HH, UK
Welfare Qualitywas the largest ever European research project on animal welfare. Here, we briefly describe some major
achievements of Welfare Qualityand identify future research priorities, potential strategies and organisational structures to
build on the outcomes. Achievements include: definition of principles and criteria of good welfare; development of
standardised, primarily animal-based measures for each welfare criterion and their integration in an overall assessment
Since Welfare Qualitycould not answer all the questions we recommend:
(1) Continued development and refinement of the assessment systems and extension to new species.
(2) The development of automatic measures of welfare to reduce the duration of the assessment while still retaining its
holistic nature.
(3) Exploration of potential implementation strategies across food chain actors.
(4) Establishment of an independent body to manage and update the assessment and information systems, support their
implementation and inform and engage stakeholders.
Keywords: Animal welfare, information system, policy recommendations, public involvement, welfare assessment, welfare
Let us state at the outset that the present paper is not
intended as a general review of farm animal welfare
and/or research in this field. Rather, it specifically
describes the background of the European Union
(EU)-funded Welfare Qualityproject, its inception
and subsequent development, some of its major
achievements and our thoughts on potential ways of
implementing our findings and thereby progressing
the assessment and improvement of farm animal
welfare. We hope it will help guide the considerations
and actions of a wide range of interested stakeholders.
About seven years ago the first aims and
approaches of what became the largest piece of
integrated research work yet carried out on animal
welfare in Europe were formulated. Welfare
Qualitywas a research project financed under
the European sixth Framework Programme for
Research and Technological Development. The
project began in 2004 and comprised a partnership
of 40 institutions in Europe and, since 2006, four
in Latin America. The partners were based in 13
European countries as well as Uruguay, Brazil,
Chile and Mexico. During the project’s lifetime the
Correspondence: H. J. Blokhuis, Department of Animal Environment and Health, Swedish University of Ag ricultural Sciences, P.O. Box 7068, 750 07
Uppsala, Sweden. Tel: 46 18671627. Fax: 46 18 673588. E-mail:
Acta Agriculturae Scand Section A, 2010; 60: 129140
(Received 24 August 2010; revised 9 September 2010; accepted 9 September 2010)
ISSN 0906-4702 print/ISSN 1651-1972 online #2010 Taylor & Francis
DOI: 10.1080/09064702.2010.523480
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original ideas (Blokhuis et al., 2003) evolved and the
priorities were modified accordingly. However, the
main drivers underlying the vision, the general aims
and the research have remained the same.
Welfare Qualitywas a huge, multidisciplinary
and complex project that generated many important
outcomes and deliverables. Many articles have been
published on specific aspects of Welfare Quality,
but papers focusing on the implications of its
outcomes were still lacking. The first part of this
article presents a condensed overview of the back-
ground, approach and main achievements of the
Welfare Qualityproject. The second part aims to
provide some guidance to policy makers and other
stakeholders on research priorities as well as the
potential implementation and use of the projects
final deliverables, particularly the animal welfare
assessment system, the product information system
and the practical welfare improvement strategies.
We hope this paper will also illustrate how the
combination of different disciplines (ethology,
pathology, animal science, social science, economy,
mathematics ...) can bring new insights into the
issue of animal welfare.
Overview of the Welfare Qualityproject
The drivers
Many and very diverse groups, factors, circumstances
and developments were influential in driving and
guiding the Welfare Qualityproject (Blokhuis,
2008, 2009; Miele et al., 2010), but three crucial
external factors included: (1) citizens; (2) production
chains and markets; and (3) regulatory control.
Citizens. The closing decades of the twentieth century
saw several major changes in animal farming
(Blokhuis et al., 1998; Fraser, 2008). Production
intensified enormously, farms became highly specia-
lised and there were huge increases in the number
of animals per farm and in actual production
(Porcher, 2001). Furthermore, housing conditions
and management practices changed profoundly with
the appearance of increased mechanisation and other
technological developments. Animal production
became increasingly industrialised, with quantity
often taking precedence over quality.
Over the years, cultural, attitudinal and commercial
barriers hampered constructive communication
between farmers and the people who ultimately
eat what is produced. The activities of consumer
groups and animal protectionists and, more recently,
the effects of crises such as swine fever, bovine
spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), foot-and-mouth
disease and avian influenza led to an increased
awareness that animal production is more than just
an industry and animal welfare assumed much greater
importance for the public (in the specific form of
‘‘consumer concerns’’). Farm animal welfare is now
an important issue for ordinary people across Europe
and there is clear demand for higher farm animal
welfare standards (Eurobarometer, 2005, 2007;
Kjaernes & Lavik, 2008). The mounting interest in
farm animal welfare is also reflected in a widespread
demand for transparent information across Europe.
However, this demand varies significantly across
different countries and largely reflects differences in
primary production, processing and distribution as
well as governance structures and public discourse.
Moreover, information demand often seems to reflect
just a general interest rather than one that is apparent
through purchase choice (Kjaernes & Lavik, 2008;
Miele & Evans, 2010).
Production chains and markets. The production chain
now focuses more and more on delivering good
animal welfare as an important attribute of total food
quality. In general, farmers consider animal welfare
as an important aspect of farming (Bock, 2009) and
they are very motivated to take good care of their
animals. Farmers also realise that they are operating
in a market where they have to take peoples
concerns about the welfare of farm animals into
account. There is also a broadening recognition that
conditions that harm animal welfare can negatively
affect production, damage specific quality aspects
and jeopardise profitability (Jones, 1998).
Farmers favour an objective standardised system
of assessing animal welfare that could be used
throughout Europe and preferably worldwide
(Bock, 2009). But, they also worry about the costs
of welfare assessments, welfare improvements and
more stringent regulations. They are also anxious
about who will bear such costs.
Producers, retailers and other food chain actors also
recognise that consumer concerns for good animal
welfare represent a business opportunity that could be
profitably incorporated in their commercial strategies
(Roe & Buller, 2008). Animal welfare is increasingly
used, particularly by retailers, as a component of
product and supply chain differentiation (Miele
et al., 2005; Eurogroup for Animals, 2007). Such
differentiation (and creation of mark ets) may be based
on an ‘‘overall’’ high welfare level; be related to specific
welfare aspects; or be ‘‘bundled’’ or not with other
product characteristics, e.g. ‘‘environment’’,‘‘global
warming’’ or ‘‘sustainability’’.
In general, animal welfare is increasingly used as
an important attribute of an overall concept of ‘‘food
130 H. J. Blokhuis et al.
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quality’’ (Blokhuis et al., 1998; Buller & Cesar,
Regulatory control. In the EU, legislation on animal
welfare has a longstanding tradition in many
member states (Blokhuis et al., 2008; Bennett &
Appleby, 2010). The Protocol on Protection and
Welfare of Animals annexed to the European Com-
munity (EC) Treaty in 1999 (the Treaty of Amster-
dam amending the Treaty on EU) is a milestone for
the development of the Communitys animal welfare
policy. This Protocol spells out the obligation to pay
full regard to the welfare of animals as sentient beings
when formulating and implementing the Commu-
nitys policies. The legal recognition of animals as
‘‘sentient beings’’ was recently reconfirmed in the
Lisbon Treaty in 2007.
There is now a range of EU Directives and
Regulations specifying requirements, conditions and
practices to ensure good animal welfare for different
species. These cover areas such as animal housing
and husbandry, transport and slaughter. In general,
current EU legislation largely relies on input-based
measures, e.g. specifying the provision of particular
resources and practices (i.e. prescriptions). This
approach is important to guide decisions on the
banning of conditions/practices that are widely
considered to result in poor welfare, such as certain
housing systems (e.g. battery cages for laying hens)
or painful procedures. However, reliance on a pre-
scriptive ‘‘input-based approach’’ leads to several
difficulties when one seeks to promote good welfare.
For example, an ongoing assurance of good animal
welfare using prescriptive legislation requires deeper
and continuous detailing of housing design and
requirements, management procedures, etc. and
this could result in very complicated and inflexible
legislation. Moreover, it is often difficult (if not
impossible) to define detailed input measures in
such a way that they provide the same protection of
animal welfare under the very different farming and
climatic conditions that prevail in the various member
states. If input-based rules are too detailed and
restrictive they may prevent farmers from choosing
husbandry systems and practices to their liking or that
fit their specific circumstances most, even if these
could result in good welfare in that situation. Clearly,
detailed definition of systems and practices does not
stimulate innovation. Also, it is very complicated (and
very likely impossible) to prescribe all relevant details
of management practices. Finally, ensuring compli-
ance with such detailed legislation of husbandry
conditions and practices would be virtually
In the European Commissions Action Plan for
Animal Welfare 20062010 (European Commission,
2006), it was stated that efforts will be made to
incorporate specific measurable animal welfare
indicators where available into existing and future
Community legislation.
Vision and approach
The Welfare Qualityvision was designed to
accommodate the above drivers and developments
and to respond to their diverse requirements. Trans-
parency of the product quality chain and provision of
guarantees in relation to animal welfare can be
considered major and overarching requirements.
These involve visibility of production processes to all
stakeholders (public, industry, government, etc.) and
a trustworthy way of quantifying how these processes
affect animal welfare (Blokhuis et al., 1998; Blokhuis,
2009). Welfare Qualitytherefore set out to deliver
reliable, science-based, on-farm welfare assessment
systems for poultry, pigs and cattle as well as a
standardised system to convey welfare measures into
clear and understandable product information.
It was also recognised that a concerted European
effort in the area of animal welfare should include
research designed to identify practical ways of solving
some of the main welfare problems in current animal
production. Therefore, Welfare Qualityinitiated
studies in important areas like handling stress,
injurious behaviours, lameness, temperament, etc.
Through its integrated European approach,
Welfare Qualitywas instrumental in providing a
firm basis for the European harmonisation of assess-
ment and information systems. Such harmonisation is
essential to create a level playing field for European
producers and to provide transparent consumer
information and marketing. Also, as a possible basis
for future legislation, welfare measures need EU-wide
support and harmonisation.
Welfare Qualityprovided instruments (assess-
ment methods and improvement strategies) which
can also drive further developments outside the EU.
European agriculture embraces diverse physical
environments (e.g. cold Nordic countries to warm
Mediterranean ones) and different socio-cultural
conditions (Kjærnes et al., 2007). The fact that we
took this diversity into account means that the
instruments developed in Welfare Qualityare likely
to be robust and applicable to many other contexts
and countries. We believe that most Welfare Quality
outcomes can be used not only throughout the EU,
but also at the level of the Council of Europe and
beyond in the case of international trade. Indeed,
the welfare assessment protocols have already been
The Welfare Qualityproject 131
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successfully tested by Welfare Qualitypartners in
Latin America.
Such a harmonised assessment procedure can
also be an invaluable tool for testing and evaluating
new housing and husbandry systems as well as new
genotypes before they are allowed onto the market.
By identifying potential risks, such testing would
play a critical preventative role.
Thus, the main aims of the Welfare Quality
project were described as:
to develop a standardised system for the assess-
ment of animal welfare;
to develop a standardised way to convey
measures into animal welfare information;
to develop practical strategies/measures to
improve animal welfare; and
to integrate and interrelate the most appropriate
specialist expertise in the multidisciplinary field
of animal welfare in Europe.
Animal welfare is a multidimensional concept. It
comprises both physical and mental health and
includes several aspects such as physical comfort,
absence of hunger and disease, possibilities to
perform motivated behaviour, etc. These specificities
of the welfare concept make its assessment a difficult
exercise, particularly when the importance attribu-
ted to these dimensions may vary between people
and change over time (Fraser, 1995, 2008). In
Welfare Qualitya primary requirement was that
the different aspects of welfare covered had to be
stated clearly. These aspects should reflect what is
meaningful to animals, as understood by animal
welfare science, and also be agreed upon by the
public and other stakeholders in order to ensure that
wider ethical and social issues are taken into
account. Therefore, in Welfare Qualitywe devised
ways of establishing dialogue between the projects
scientists and the various social constituencies
(ordinary citizens, farmers, breeders, retailers, certi-
fication bodies, NGOs, etc.; Miele et al., 2010).
Early consultation among animal scientists gener-
ated a list of four welfare principles and 12 criteria that
combined various scientific perspectives on how to
approach farm animal welfare as well as particular
aspects of an animals life that should be monitored in
order to gain as full an impression as practically
possible about its quality of life (Table I). In a truly
integrated fashion, this list of welfare principles and
criteria was discussed with members of the public in
focus groups in seven European countries (Evans &
Miele, 2007); with the stakeholders and external
scientific experts in the projects Advisory Committee
and Scientific Board, respectively, and in interviews
with farmers, retailers and certifying bodies in six EU
countries (Bock & Van Huik, 2007; Roe & Buller,
Once the Welfare Qualityassessment protocols
were drafted and tested at numerous European farms,
we organised citizen and farmer juries in three EU
countries to discuss: how the various aspects of
welfare are measured; how the results are combined
to evaluate farms (see the scoring system below);
and how the scheme might best be implemented
to realise improvements in European farm animal
welfare. Welfare Qualityoutcomes were presented
at three large stakeholder conferences (at Brussels
in 2005, Berlin in 2007 and Uppsala in 2009)
attended by farmersassociations, certification
bodies, retailers, NGOs, scientists, members of the
EU Parliament and the EU Commission, national
policy makers, the media, etc. Feedback from these
groups was taken into consideration when the assess-
ment protocols were refined. Intensive discussions
between animal and social scientists facilitated the
integration of the concerns and welfare priorities of
citizens and other stakeholders with a scientific
approach to animal welfare. The consultation process
is described in more details by Miele et al. (2010).
Animals differ in their genetic structure, early
experience and temperament and may therefore
experience the same environment in different ways.
Even apparently similar environments may be man-
aged differently by the stockperson, further affecting
the animalsexperience of a particular situation.
Thus, resource- (e.g. housing, stocking density) or
management-based measures (e.g. feeding strategies,
health plans) provide only partial information about
the animalswelfare in particular situations. So, in
line with the Commissions intention to adopt a more
outcome-based approach to animal welfare, the
Welfare Qualityscientists focused on animal-/
outcome-based measures that reflect the actual wel-
fare state of the animals in terms of their behaviour,
fearfulness, health, physical condition, etc. The fact
Table I. Principles and criteria for good welfare.
Principles Welfare criteria
Good feeding 1 Absence of prolonged hunger
2 Absence of prolonged thirst
Good housing 3 Comfort around resting
4 Thermal comfort
5 Ease of movement
Good health 6 Absence of injuries
7 Absence of disease
8 Absence of pain induced by man-
agement procedures
Appropriate 9 Expression of social behaviours
behaviour 10 Expression of other behaviours
11 Good humananimal relationship
12 Positive emotional state
132 H. J. Blokhuis et al.
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that such measures are sensitive to variations in farm
management and specific systemanimal interactions
makes them particularly relevant (Figure 1). It was
agreed that if no animal-based measure was available
to check a specific aspect, or if it was not sufficiently
sensitive or reliable, measures of the resources or the
management would be used to determine as much as
possible whether or not a given welfare requirement is
being met.
In Welfare Qualitys vision, feedback of the
detailed results of the measures (assessment infor-
mation) to the farmer is essential for ongoing farm
management. Together with expert advice such in-
formation can support the farmers efforts to further
improve the animalswelfare. For instance, once
the welfare status of a farm has been determined
using the above system(s) the feedback of results and
the provision of practical advice on remedial strategies
will help the farmer to deal successfully with any
problems that were identified. In this context, the
welfare improvement strategies developed in Welfare
Qualityand the associated Technical Information
Resource (which describes possible risk factors and
remedial measures) will contribute significantly to
the advisory component of the cyclical process of
farm assessment feedback and advise welfare
improvement reassessment, etc.
Main achievements
Principles and criter ia of good welfare. Ongoing
dialogue between Welfare Qualityscientists and
external stakeholders resulted in a list of 12 criteria
for good animal welfare which encompass all potential
areas of concern. These criteria, which built on
and extended the ‘‘Five Freedoms’’ were broadly
supported in focus groups (general public) and in
citizensand farmersjuries. The 12 criteria were then
grouped into four main principles to ease their
aggregation in the overall welfare assessment
(Table I). Along with methodologies developed in
operational research, the 12 criteria were defined so as
to cover all dimensions of animal welfare, to avoid
redundancies between criteria and to be interpreted
independently of each others (Bouyssou, 1990). This
logical approach is a major advance in animal welfare
science. It provides a solid framework for developing
welfare measures that will in turn be used to build a
comprehensive picture of animal welfare.
Standardised measures. Welfare Qualityresearchers
developed standardised, primarily animal-based
measures to check compliance of farms or slaughter-
houses with the 12 welfare criteria. Each assessment
system focuses on one of seven categories of animals of
three species (sows with piglets, fattening pigs, dairy
cattle, beef cattle, veal calves, laying hens and broilers)
and incorporates 3050 measures. Validity was
paramount, i.e. the measures had to say something
about the animalswelfare. However, animal-based
measures that have been validated for experimental
use are often unsuitable for commercial conditions
because they are too time-consuming, require
equipment to be taken to the animal unit, or need
specialist veterinary or behavioural expertise. Clearly,
practicality demands that measures should be quick
and easy; in fact many of the current Welfare Quality
measures simply require the assessor to count
frequencies of events and conditions or to classify
observations according to a few categories illustrated
by photographs. The scientists agreed among them-
selves upon the final composition of each assessment
Many welfare measures currently used in quality
assurance schemes have not actually been tested for
reliability. So, to address concerns about subjectivity
or mood-dependent variation in assessment all
measures were tested for inter- (between observers)
and intra-observer (within the same observer) reli-
ability. Procedures were standardised as much as
possible to allow comparisons between measures
and, whenever different options were available, the
measure with the highest reliability and feasibility was
selected. The reliability of the animal-based measures
was generally high and the methodology was further
improved by the provision of instructions on how the
test animals were to be selected. If reliability was poor
the measure was rejected.
Overall welfare evaluation model. A major goal was to
develop harmonised methods for the overall evalua-
tion of animal welfare on farm and at slaughter that
are science based and meet societal concerns. Since
welfare is multidimensional its assessment requires
measures of many aspects. Welfare Qualitywas
the first project to not only formulate a sound way
Animal welfare
information Legislative
Figure 1. Diagrammatic representation of the assessment and
information systems (adapted from Blokhuis et al. 2003).
The Welfare Qualityproject 133
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of integrating scores from many measures into an
overall welfare assessment, but also to tune the
evaluation model according to the opinion of
selected experts: biologists, social scientists and
stakeholders (Veissier et al., 2009). Combining
subjective assessments with mathematical ap-
proaches from other disciplines strengthened the
methods validity. Our formal evaluation model
transforms the data into value scores that reflect
compliance with the 12 criteria and four principles of
good welfare (Figure 2). After assessment each farm
can be allocated to one of four welfare categories:
excellent, enhanced, acceptable and not classified.
Like in all evaluation processes, ethics played an
important role, e.g. in determining the thresholds
between the welfare categories, or whether or not to
allow good results on some welfare aspects to
compensate for poor scores on others (Veissier
et al., 2010).
We created a software chain to ease collection of
data from the 3050 measures per system (using a
laptop or tablet PC), a database to store data for all
animal types and a software module to calculate
welfare scores at criterion, principle and overall level.
The results are shown on the website (http://www.; the farmers can access their
own results and welfare improvement strategies can
be simulated.
The ‘‘protocol’’ documents. After extensive testing of
the system(s) in practice the ‘‘protocol’’ documents
for assessing and evaluating welfare in cattle, pigs
and poultry were developed with the Dutch Stan-
dardisation Institute (NEN). This process combined
the efforts of many researchers and stakeholders to
create the ‘‘first’’ overall welfare assessment scheme
for farms and slaughterhouses using animal-based
outcomes and originating from a broad international
consensus. Although the protocols need some re-
finement and modification to facilitate application in
commercial settings, they are extremely positive
and important outputs of Welfare Quality. The
protocols are freely available and large numbers have
already been distributed to interested parties.
Improvement strategies and management support. The
effective uptake of the assessment systems by
farmers, advisors, retailers and others demands a
cyclical process of: assessment, feedback of results and
advice, welfare improvement, reassessment, etc. The
practical welfare improvement strategies developed in
the project, e.g. stockperson training programmes,
selection criteria to improve welfare through future
breeding programmes, recommendations on housing
and husbandry, provide an extremely important
contribution to the advisory component of that
process. Moreover, by focusing on the 12 criteria
and the welfare problems considered particularly
important by a wide range of stakeholders, Welfare
Qualityscientists are continuing to develop a
technical information resource describing the causes
and consequences of welfare problems as well as the
associated practical welfare improvement strategies.
Gaps, limitations and required research
Specific measures and models
Although Welfare Qualitywas the largest ever
collaborative project in animal welfare science, it is
clear that it could not have possibly covered all the
questions and every detail. So, it is not surprising that
there are still unanswered questions and discussion
points about specific welfare measures or the lack
of animal-based measures for some criteria (e.g.
prolonged thirst and thermal comfort in adult cattle).
Furthermore, no measures were developed for the
welfare at slaughter of dairy cows, veal calves, sows,
piglets and hens. Welfare Qualityalso had to
prioritise some tasks and species at the expense of
others because of budgetary and other constraints.
Thus, the models for the overall evaluation of welfare
in sows and piglets on farm, laying hens on farm,
buffalos or animals at slaughter could not be fully
completed. However, these could be developed
relatively easily in a follow-on project because all the
necessary processes and principles are in place.
New species
During the projects lifetime the Welfare Quality
measures and evaluation models were largely
developed for the seven animal types described above.
However, in order to provide a basis for welfare
assessment in general, the system has to be extended
to include other animal types and species. The 12
welfare criteria and the methods and outcomes of
Welfare Qualityform a sound basis for such
In line with our thinking, within the context of
the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) the EU
overall assessment
Figure 2. The model for the overall evaluation of animal welfare
(adapted from Botreau et al. 2008).
134 H. J. Blokhuis et al.
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recently called for research proposals to further
develop and refine the welfare assessment and
monitoring systems and to bring other important
species into the model (European Commission,
2009). New species that clearly merit study include
sheep, turkeys and horses; these are all very im-
portant for the continued agricultural and rural
development in Europe and they represent specific
challenges to the application of the Welfare Quality
system. For instance, sheep production is very
diverse and the extent to which sheep are farmed
extensively raises several issues for welfare assess-
ment, such as health problems, hunger, weather-
related discomfort, etc. that may not have been
encountered for other species. On the other hand,
the factors and issues influencing turkey welfare may
not be very different from those affecting broiler
chickens. Turkeys therefore represent an interesting
case in that they enable us to determine how
effectively the Welfare Qualityassessment system
can be transposed between two close species and
production environments.
Horses also display key differences from the other
animal models studied in Welfare Quality. These
include: (1) horses are generally kept individually or
in (very) small groups for a large part of the day;
(2) ownersspecific instructions may result in horses
being managed differently even within the same
facility; and (3) horses are kept for several different
purposes, e.g. as companion animals or for leisure
riding, sport, meat production, etc. Thus, a welfare
evaluation would need to target the individual animal
and tailor the calculation of scores accordingly.
Carrying out a complete Welfare Qualityassess-
ment may take 48 h. This is not only costly but it
also limits the number of farms that can be assessed
in a given period. So, it is essential to reduce the
workload and time required but without losing
the holistic nature of the assessment that enables an
overall and reliable view of animal welfare. The
software developed for capturing data on farms (on
a computer or a hand-held ‘‘personal digital assis-
tant’’ device) will optimise data collection in terms of
time and accuracy as well as enabling rapid avail-
ability and feedback of the results for management
support and further use in the production chain.
The workload may also be reduced by automating
some measures. Techniques developed in Precision
Livestock Farming (use of sensors, sensing systems
and real-time modelling, e.g. Silva et al., 2009)
may complement or replace manual measures in the
Welfare Qualityprotocols. Such automation could
greatly increase the effectiveness and time efficiency
of the existing welfare assessment protocols while
simultaneously providing valuable management in-
Frequency of assessment
It is agreed that the Welfare Qualityassessment
protocols require further refinement to reduce the
workload and encourage their uptake. It is also
necessary to determine how often a farm must be
assessed in order to guarantee its welfare status,
e.g. if a farm is rated ‘‘excellent’’ how frequently does
that rating need to be checked? In this context, the
incorporation of risk factor analysis in a future study
would not only identify likely problem areas, but
may also establish the frequency of visits required for
particular farms and whether it is necessary to run a
full assessment on each visit.
New European Union (EU) member states and
candidate countries
Our research on public attitudes to animal welfare
(focus groups, population survey with consumers
and citizen juries) was conducted in seven European
countries: five old member states (UK, France, the
Netherlands, Italy and Sweden) one new member
(Hungary) and a non-EU country, Norway. It
revealed at least three distinct modes of governance
and institutional environments pertaining to animal
welfare: the ‘‘market’’ , the ‘‘welfare state’’ and the
‘‘terroir’’ models (Kjaernes et al., 2009); these
greatly affect how ordinary people feel they can
take action to improve farm animal welfare while
shopping for food. We now need to fill the gap in
knowledge about the modes of governance/institu-
tional environments and consumer attitudes in new
member states and candidate countries.
Implementation and incorporation into
existing schemes
Now that Welfare Qualityhas developed and field
tested a comprehensive set of animal-based welfare
assessment protocols, the implementation task today
is to achieve their widespread adoption across food
chain actors. In turn, this would establish: first, a
greater basis for improved consumer confidence in
welfare claims; second, a genuine means of validating
higher welfare systems; and third, improvements in
the quality of farm animalslives. This mission faces a
number of challenges. The livestock sector is already
heavily regulated and assessed for a variety of reasons.
Farm inspection visits are multiplying and existing
The Welfare Qualityproject 135
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procedures are often seen as offering few concrete
benefits to producers. Moreover, many private
schemes incorporate some aspect of animal welfare
and many are operated as part of retail assurance
However, in practical terms, the Welfare Quality
system offers several major advantages: it is animal
based, thereby responding to shifting consumer,
legislative and welfare concerns about the quality of
animal lives; it is comprehensive and holistic across
the time and space of animal production; it is
rigorously and scientifically tested; it offers scope for
market segmentation based on valid and transferable
standards; it is dynamic, in that it encourages higher
welfare performance (and the benefits thereof); and,
critically, it is flexible in that it can be integrated into
existing assessment practice thereby reducing the
impact on producers, food chain actors and assessors.
We see four principal avenues for the implementa-
tion of the Welfare Qualityassessment scheme
(Table II). The first is legislative and regulatory.
The Welfare Qualityscheme offers the potential
for comprehensive and comparable (mainly animal-
based) assessment to be undertaken as part of
legislative compliance within individual production
sectors or, more readily, as the basis for a distinctive
welfare labelling initiative at the EU level. In this
instance, the scheme might act as an essentially
undifferentiated qualifying assessment leading to the
use and display of a label or brand. A second avenue is
as the basis for assessing the potential delivery of a
recognised public good, the provision of which by
private actors over and above mandatory minimum
standards might merit payment through such
targeted schemes as are currently operating within
the EU Rural Development Regulation. Here, the
Welfare Qualityassessment system might act
in certain conditions as the basis for assessing
differentiated levels of payment, according to asso-
ciated levels of welfare provision. Third, by offering
competitive advantage and demonstrating ethical
responsibility, a critical area for implementation of
the Welfare Qualityassessment scheme lies in its
adoption by food chain actors as part of their quality
assurance procedures. Finally, the Welfare Quality
scheme can play a vital role in farm management
through the feedback of assessment results and advice
(see section Improvement strategies and management
support). As such, it offers greater integration within
existing auditing and inspection protocols, without
duplicating procedures. Its exploration of innovative
monitoring and self-assessment methods, and poten-
tial integration with existing resource-based assess-
ment, makes the Welfare Qualityassessment scheme
a positive contribution to farm manag ement with clear
benefits to producers seeking formalised recognition
for good welfare practice or those actively wishing to
improve their own welfare standards.
Integration in existing schemes
The cost of the Welfare Qualityassessment not only
has to cover the time taken for the assessment visit
itself, but also that of getting a qualified assessor on
site in terms of training, transport and administration.
If delivered as ‘‘bolt on’’ within existing schemes, the
additional cost of time taken to deliver the Welfare
Qualityassessment is relatively low in comparison
with a ‘‘stand-alone’’ visit (Burton, 2009). Moreover,
existing schemes already have a pool of trained
assessors in place who have the skills to acquire new
competences and adopt new inspection methods and
tools. Integration of Welfare Qualityprotocols into
either existing ‘‘national’’ or ‘‘international’’ schemes
or retailersown assessment systems would there-
fore be the most cost effective way of delivering
the protocols (Burton, 2009; De Thore´, 2009). The
one danger of this method is the risk of the protocols
being taken out of context so it will be important to
make it abundantly clear how the protocols can be
grouped so that the scoring method can be applied
(Burton, 2009).
Table II. Possible ways to implementation the Welfare Qualityassessment tool (after Buller 2009).
Tool use Outcome Integration Remit
Full assessment
assessment tool Pass/fail Tiered
alone Bundled
Part of
brand Inclusive Exclusive
Legislation X XX XX X X XX XX XX X
European label XX X X XX XX X X X XX
Public good XX X XX XX X X X XX
Commercial assurance XX XX X XX X XX XX X XX
Farm management XX X X XX XX X X XX X
Note: XX more probable in the implementation of the Welfare Qualityassessment scheme; X less probable in the implementation of
the Welfare Qualityassessment scheme.
136 H. J. Blokhuis et al.
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Governance of the Welfare Qualitysystems and tools
Welfare Qualityno longer exists as an integrated and
collaborative structure. Scenario analyses performed
in Welfare Qualityidentified the urgent need to
establish and support an independent and inter-
nationally respected body to manage, maintain and
upgrade the welfare assessment and product infor-
mation systems as well as the support instruments,
e.g. welfare improvement strategies, and other tools
developed in the project (Ingenbleek et al., 2009).
This body would have strategic responsibilities for
managing the assessment and information systems
and related tools, supporting the implementation of
these systems for the various species and informing
the general public and stakeholders about all aspects
of the assessments and other tools.
A European Network of Reference Centres
for Animal Welfare, as recently suggested by the
European Commission (2009), would be admirably
suited to fulfil the above roles. Because national
environments vary considerably within Europe, and
specific expertise is available in several member states,
such a Network could effectively and efficiently link
the national expertise and practices.
Some important tasks for such a governing body
are briefly mentioned as follows.
Management of the system and support instruments. For
a harmonised and effective implementation of the
Welfare Qualityassessment systems, it is essential
to clearly define conditions of use. These should be
made clear to all stakeholders and implemented and
complied with by all users. For an unambiguous
communication to the public, it is also crucial to
define and describe the claims that can be made
on the basis of the outcomes of the assessments.
The constraints, in terms of marketing and commu-
nication messages, must also be made very clear.
Moreover, it is important that an independent body
verifies that the implementation plans proposed by a
stakeholder comply with the above conditions.
Training. The assessor is a ‘‘critical component’’ of
every certification and inspection scheme. Without
competent and credible assessors there would be no
consistency across assessments, so the scheme would
be unable to satisfy the producer or the consumer.
Thus, appropriate and recognised training in the use
and practical application of the welfare assessment
protocols is essential (Burton, 2009; Butterworth,
2009). Assessorsperformance should be evaluated
during a robust training course to ensure uniform
scoring, and then re-evaluated when they are active
in the field to ensure retention of objectivity,
impartiality and repeatability in scoring (Butter-
worth, 2009). Thus, assessor training and its deliv-
ery should focus prominently in further discussions
on implementation of the Welfare Qualityassess-
ment system. Recognition/accreditation of assessors
by an independent body (see above) is essential to
harmonise the use and application of the Welfare
Qualitysystems and to guarantee consistency.
Data management and protection. The application
(by trained/certified assessors) of Welfare Quality
assessment systems in food production chains will
generate large amounts of data from individual
farms all over Europe (and beyond). To ensure
harmonisation, processing of the data into integrated
welfare assessment scores should be entrusted to the
above independent body. These results must be
carefully stored to ensure the safe and steady
accumulation of knowledge. Indeed, such storage is
essential to keep the database up to date and
accurate. Data collected at several locations and at
various intervals can subsequently be used (with
appropriate protection) to: (1) continue to inform
stakeholders (e.g. on the progress made by a certain
population of farms/certain slaughterhouses, etc.);
(2) help farmers or slaughterhouse managers see
the progress they are making; (3) produce a yearly
‘‘European welfare barometer’’ with statistical
summaries of assessment scores; and (4) further
analyse the links between welfare problems and/or
identify their associated risk factors.
Supporting the adoption of the assessment system.
Activities one can envisage to stimulate the adoption
of the Welfare Qualityassessment system include:
advisory services; training and support packages to
help individual farmers, farmer organisations or
farmer retailer groups; and quality assurance
checks to ensure that the system is used correctly.
The resultant increase in animal welfare data would
aid the development of these support products and
One can also envisage a legitimising role, in
ensuring that the system has a solid acceptance basis
among the general European public, stakeholders
(farmers, retailers, certification bodies, etc.) with
specific interests in safeguarding farm animal welfare,
NGOs, policy groups and a wider group of stake-
holders concerned with sustainable development.
Updating the assessment system. The existing Welfare
Qualityassessment protocols and evaluation models
The Welfare Qualityproject 137
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need to be regularly updated and refined on the basis
of new scientific findings, societal developments and
practical experiences gained during implementation.
For example, some new measures may prove easier to
collect, or they may be more precise or more reliable
than those in the current Welfare Qualityprotocols.
The inclusion of a new measure or the replacement of
one measure by another requires stringent testing of
validity, repeatability and robustness (Engel et al.,
2009) followed by consultation in order to translate
the data into a value score (Veissier et al., 2009). This
process requires an independent body with the
appropriate expertise to check new measures and to
decide whether or not they can be incorporated into
the system. Currently, the Welfare Qualityscoring
system proposes that animal units should be placed in
one of four welfare categories (excellent, enhanced,
acceptable and not classified) according to a specific
set of rules. After a few years of implementation and in
order to satisfy the demand of the public for strin-
gency, we envisage raising the requirements of some of
these rules when clear improvements in welfare status
and strategies have become apparent at farms and
Upgrading a resource on welfare improvement strategies.
The provision of sound advice on ways of avoiding
welfare risks or resolving problems is critical for the
uptake and implementation of the Welfare Quality
assessment systems and for improving farm animal
welfare in general. Remedial measures developed
within and outside the Welfare Qualityproject are
described in a Technical Information Resource
which also details the causes and consequences of
welfare problems (Jones & Manteca, 2009). Clearly
there is an urgent need to maintain, update, extend
(to include new strategies and new species) and
disseminate this resource as new results emerge.
Through the management of the systems and the
efforts to support implementation, areas requiring
further research are expected to be highlighted. Such
areas may include: fundamental biological knowl-
edge required to assess all aspects of animal welfare
as well as relevant developments in stakeholder or
consumer attitudes, areas of cross-compliance, and
social, economic and environmental policy. A prior-
itisation of such R&D needs would be helpful for a
range of EU and national research funding bodies.
The active participation of a broad range of stake-
holder organisations (farmers, breeders, retailers,
certification bodies, NGOs, etc.) in the actual
research and in an advisory capacity greatly facili-
tated the uptake of Welfare Qualityoutcomes and
helped to guide the development of follow-on
projects. The strategic value of such collaborative
ventures is clear and the fact that Welfare Quality
generated the European Animal Welfare Platform, a
multi-stakeholder project committed to safeguarding
and progressing farm animal welfare, provides the
necessary impetus to foster further cooperation.
Indeed, the need for closer collaboration between
academics and stakeholders was recognised in the
Commissions recent call for proposals.
Ordinary people are often confused by existing
labels carrying welfare claims and they know little
about modern farming systems or animal welfare
problems. Welfare Qualityresearchers revealed a
clear need for the provision of reliable, user-friendly,
science-based information to raise awareness of
farm animal welfare in the general public and
schoolchildren, to help support welfare improve-
ment initiatives, and to increase consumersability
to interpret welfare claims on products (Evans &
Miele, 2007; Miele & Evans, 2010).
Earlier in this article we described the disad vantages
and difficulties of resource-based legislation. To
recap, firstly welfare is the quality of life as perceived
by the animal and is therefore best measured at the
animalslevel. Secondly, resource-based regulatory
efforts face difficulties in providing detailed (and
lasting) descriptions of the resources and in coping
with national and regional variations in critical factors
such as climate, farming conditions and traditions.
Thirdly, such regulatory systems would restrict the
managerial freedom of farmers and the innovative
capacity of the industry.
Since the Welfare Qualityprotocols for evaluating
welfare are primarily outcome based they provide a
strong platform for the European Commissions
intention to adopt a more outcome-based approach
to animal welfare legislation and welfare improve-
ment in the EU. Basically, this alternative approach
to legislation would simply define the minimum
acceptable level for the assessment results. These
minimum levels not only could be defined for each of
the many individual measures, but they could also be
set at the level of criteria, principles or even that of the
integrated assessment (e.g. a farm should at the very
least attain a score that places it in the ‘‘acceptable’’
In order to guarantee a harmonised assessment for
the whole of the EU, it is crucial that the assessment
system itself is clearly defined in such legislation.
There must also be scope for upgrading the system
as new measures and technologies emerge. Clearly,
the establishment of an independent managerial
body (as described above) should be integral to the
governance of that system.
138 H. J. Blokhuis et al.
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This type of legislation would also enable another
type of control, i.e. the owner of the animal unit
could be made responsible for ensuring that his/her
unit is assessed by a recognised third party. Official
controls could then focus on checking the assess-
ment outcomes and the quality of the process.
Random reassessment or specific risk-based controls
could also be part of such a system. Once again, this
whole process would be enormously facilitated by
the establishment of an independent body that could
also administer the assessment outcomes. Clearly,
this type of legislative control would give a far greater
coverage (in principle all European animal units)
than at present.
The Welfare Qualityteam is fully aware that it
would be dangerous to move entirely and solely to the
above type of output-based animal welfare legislation
in Europe and to abandon all prescriptive rules and
requirements. Legislation should maintain bans of
systems (e.g. battery cages) and practices proven to
induce poor welfare. This would protect the welfare of
animals and help ensure that individual farmers are
not misled into investing in systems or practices
that would simply lead to poor assessment results
according to the Welfare Qualityprotocols. The
bottom line can be summarised as: ‘‘ban bad systems
and practices and assess the remaining ones’’ (c.f.
Grandin, 2010).
An important opportunity for such an assessment-
based legislation is the possibility to include the
requirements for a specific voluntary EU labelling
scheme for products that are produced by animals
with a higher animal welfare status than legally
required (European Commission, 2009). Such a
scheme could build on exactly the same assessment
protocols and procedures while offering great
advantages for their implementation and helping
farmers who want to join the scheme (since they are
already assessed).
Another relevant opportunity is the introduction
of an EU-wide pre-testing facility (for housing
systems, genotypes and husbandry practices) based
on the same assessment procedures.
The outcomes of the Welfare Qualityproject
have a number of important implications for animal
welfare. Firstly, the assessment systems developed in
the project to measure welfare on farm and at
slaughter represent a whole new approach, i.e. they
primarily consist of animal-based measures. A
strongly structured evaluation model developed by
Welfare Qualityresearchers then integrates the
results of all the measures into an overall welfare
assessment for the farm or slaughter house. Rather
than the previous reliance on prescriptive scores
of the environment (resources) and management
(practices) our new approach enables the assessment
of animal welfare to focus more on the animals
experience of the farming environment. This is
also consistent with the aims of European and
national regulatory bodies as well as private industry
initiatives. Secondly, several practical welfare im-
provement strategies were developed as well as an
associated and comprehensive information resource
on methods of safeguarding and progressing farm
animal welfare. A third important innovation was
our effort to enhance societal involvement at all
levels by analysing and addressing the perceptions
and concerns of a broad sweep of stakeholders.
These included the general public, academics,
producers, animal breeders, retailers, certification
bodies, NGOs, government, etc. Our associated
dissemination activities included an interactive
web-based platform, conferences and symposia,
newsletters, fact sheets and media initiatives. Collec-
tively, the Welfare Qualityapproach represents a
paradigm shift in how to give an account of the lives
of farm animals and how to make it visible to the
broad public. The adoption of a harmonised method
for evaluating an animals quality of life on farm or at
slaughter and the provision of advice on remedial
strategies is likely to stimulate widespread improve-
ment in farm animal welfare as well as increasing the
credibility of welfare claims on animal products.
This text was produced as part of the Welfare
Qualityresearch project which has been co-financed
by the European Commission, within the sixth
Framework Programme, contract no. FOOD-CT-
2004-506508. The text represents the authors’ views
and does not necessarily represent a position of the
Commission who will not be liable for the use made
of such information. The authors acknowledge all
contributors to the Welfare Qualityproject who
carried out the research and produced the results on
which this text is based. Special thanks to Henry
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... Animals 2023, 13, 1465 2 of 16 assessment have been developed and validated [4][5][6]. They could be used to measure welfare, develop quality certifications, identify possible risk factors, and give evidence for developing new animal welfare legislation [7]. ...
... The AWIN approach aimed to improve animal welfare conditions through the development of practical on-farm welfare assessments [6]. This tool reflected the method defined by the Welfare Quality ® project [5,18,19] based on four welfare principles (good feeding, good housing, good health, and appropriate behavior) and 12 distinct but complementary animal welfare criteria [5]. The protocol was composed mainly of valid, reliable, and feasible animal-based indicators, and some resource-and management-based indicators [20]. ...
... The AWIN approach aimed to improve animal welfare conditions through the development of practical on-farm welfare assessments [6]. This tool reflected the method defined by the Welfare Quality ® project [5,18,19] based on four welfare principles (good feeding, good housing, good health, and appropriate behavior) and 12 distinct but complementary animal welfare criteria [5]. The protocol was composed mainly of valid, reliable, and feasible animal-based indicators, and some resource-and management-based indicators [20]. ...
Full-text available
To date, there is no official method for measuring horse welfare after transport. This study aimed to develop a scale to classify horses into four categories: good shape; light affected; affected; down (GLAD) based on their welfare impairment measured at unloading. To this end, 15 animal-based measures (ABMs), previously recorded from 1019 horses, were scored. Weight and severity scores provided by welfare experts, alongside the number of welfare principles highlighted by the ABM, were assigned to each ABM. The welfare impairment (S) of each horse was then calculated as the weighted sum of the severity scores of the 15 ABMs. Three thresholds were also set to define the four GLAD categories; the ABM “down” (i.e., horses unable to stand and walk on arrival, also considered by the law as the indicator of the worst welfare) was used as the higher threshold, Sdown, (category D); the intermediate threshold, S2, was defined by the ABM “injuries”, assumed to represent highly impaired welfare (category A); the threshold, S1, was defined assuming that significant welfare impairment starts from 20% of S2 (L category). Horses with an S value below S1 were considered physically and mentally fit (G category). Out of 1019, 43% of horses fell into category G, 48% into L, 9% into A, and 0.3% into D. Our scale could be useful for veterinarians to decide whether a horse can be slaughtered immediately (G), needs rest (L), needs attention (A), or euthanasia (D), but further validation is needed.
... Existing methods typically lack one or more of these characteristics. For example, they may focus on quality of life and exclude the effects of time; rely on a narrow set of proximate measures of unrepresentative of overall welfare; fail to consider both beneficial and costly welfare or to address the transition from one to the other; or not test the robustness of their chosen metric using welfare data from a broad range of real-world farming systems [5,[24][25][26][27][28][29][30][31][32]. ...
... Here our aim was to address these limitations and develop LCA-compatible animal welfare metrics. We did this by applying and extending the welfare quality (WQ) scoring system [33,34], a comprehensive and widely used method for quantifying quality of life [25]; note, however, that our approach could also be applied to other welfare scoring systems. Importantly, by itself WQ does not incorporate how long animals must experience a level of quality of life (quantity of lifeyears), is not relative to a functional unit, does not provide an overall quantitative score and lacks consensus on how to determine the transition from welfare cost to benefit. ...
... (b) Overall welfare quality score WQ assessments are a method of quantifying quality of life at the farm level. WQ is made up of four principles, which are each made up of several criteria, which in turn are each made up of several measures [25]. These measures involve mostly animal-based assessments carried out on samples of animals and their environments. ...
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Animal welfare is usually excluded from life cycle assessments (LCAs) of farming systems because of limited consensus on how to measure it. Here, we constructed several LCA-compatible animal-welfare metrics and applied them to data we collected from 74 diverse breed-to-finish systems responsible for 5% of UK pig production. Some aspects of metric construction will always be subjective, such as how different aspects of welfare are aggregated, and what determines poor versus good welfare. We tested the sensitivity of individual farm rankings, and rankings of those same farms grouped by label type (memberships of quality-assurance schemes or product labelling), to a broad range of approaches to metric construction. We found farms with the same label types clustered together in rankings regardless of metric choice, and there was broad agreement across metrics on the rankings of individual farms. We found woodland and Organic systems typically perform better than those with no labelling and Red tractor labelling, and that outdoor-bred and outdoor-finished systems perform better than indoor-bred and slatted-finished systems, respectively. We conclude that if our goal is to identify relatively better and worse farming systems for animal welfare, exactly how LCA welfare metrics are constructed may be less important than commonly perceived.
... Application of these levels of research can have a practical influence on animal welfare standards through requirements that contain key elements for good animal welfare. Blokhius et al. [8] classified requirements for welfare standards into three main types. First are requirements that are resource-based, which usually set out minimum standards for the animal's environment and other resources, such as bedding, space, air quality, temperature, and access to food and water. ...
... We will now consider the three main types of requirements for animal welfare standards, according to the classification by Blokhius et al. [8], in the context of AI bulls. ...
... For many animal-based measures, such as the proportion of lame or injured animals, there are no non-zero values where welfare is not affected [8]. Assessing behavioral and health indicators as a main animal-based requirement of animal welfare can be used indirectly for resource-based and management requirements [5]. ...
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Animal welfare is a complex subject; as such, it requires a multidimensional approach with the main aim of providing the animals with the “five freedoms”. The violations of any one of these freedoms could have an influence on animal wellbeing on different levels. Over the years, many welfare quality protocols were developed in the EU thanks to the Welfare Quality® project. Unfortunately, there is a lack of such summarized information about bull welfare assessment in artificial insemination stations or about how disturbed welfare can be reflected in their productivity. Animal reproduction is the basis for the production of meat and milk; therefore, factors contributing to reduced fertility in bulls are not only indicators of animal welfare but also have implications for human health and the environment. Optimizing the reproductive efficiency of bulls at an early age can help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In this review, welfare quality assessment will be evaluated for these production animals using reproduction efficiency as a key area, focusing on stress as a main effect of poor animal welfare and, thereby, reduced fertility. We will address various welfare aspects and possible changes in resources or management to improve outcomes.
... Compliance with the management-based requirements (e.g., stock density, bedding type, water facilities) is evaluated using outcomes of scoring systems during periodic control visits. Moreover, animalbased measures are often included in the protocols and guidelines proposed to be implemented on farm and at slaughter to assess and improve welfare (14). Protocols are constantly evolving and improving; recently, the panel on Animal Health and Welfare of the European Food Safety Authority has suggested a set of animalbased measures to use at slaughter for monitoring on-farm welfare of cull sows and rearing pigs (15). ...
... In this sense, a key physiological role is played by hippocampus. Therefore, animals may experience the same environment in different ways (14,(57)(58)(59). A common response of animals to heat stress is the decreasing in feed intake to silence all those processes generating heat-such as digestion-with the aim to survive (60). ...
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Sustainability has become a central issue in Italian livestock systems driving food business operators to adopt high standards of production concerning animal husbandry conditions. Meat sector is largely involved in this ecological transition with the introduction of new label claims concerning the defense of animal welfare (AW). These new guarantees referred to AW provision require new tools for the purpose of authenticity and traceability to assure meat supply chain integrity. Over the years, European Union (EU) Regulations, national, and international initiatives proposed provisions and guidelines for assuring AW introducing requirements to be complied with and providing tools based on scoring systems for a proper animal status assessment. However, the comprehensive and objective assessment of the AW status remains challenging. In this regard, phenotypic insights at molecular level may be investigated by metabolomics, one of the most recent high-throughput omics techniques. Recent advances in analytical and bioinformatic technologies have led to the identification of relevant biomarkers involved in complex clinical phenotypes of diverse biological systems suggesting that metabolomics is a key tool for biomarker discovery. In the present review, the Five Domains model has been employed as a vademecum describing AW. Starting from the individual Domains—nutrition (I), environment (II), health (III), behavior (IV), and mental state (V)—applications and advances of metabolomics related to AW setting aimed at investigating phenotypic outcomes on molecular scale and elucidating the biological routes most perturbed from external solicitations, are reviewed. Strengths and weaknesses of the current state-of-art are highlighted, and new frontiers to be explored for AW assessment throughout the metabolomics approach are argued. Moreover, a detailed description of metabolomics workflow is provided to understand dos and don'ts at experimental level to pursue effective results. Combining the demand for new assessment tools and meat market trends, a new cross-strategy is proposed as the promising combo for the future of AW assessment.
... For the improving the standard of animal welfare the important part is an animal observation. In this regard, attempts have been undertaken to investigate science-based welfare indicators as assessment methods [4,5]. For example, the Welfare Quality® project contributed with protocols to assess animal welfare in ...
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Specific animal-based indicators that may be used to predict animal welfare have been at the basis of techniques for monitoring farm animal welfare, such as those developed by the Welfare Quality project. In addition, the use of technical instruments to accurately and immediately measure farm animal welfare is obvious. Precision livestock farming (PLF) has enhanced production, economic viability, and animal welfare in dairy farms by using technology instruments. Despite the fact that PLF was only recently adopted, the need for technical assistance on farms is getting more and more attention and has resulted in substantial scientific contributions in a wide range of fields within the dairy sector, with a focus on the health and welfare of cows. Among the most important animal-based indicators of dairy cow welfare are lameness, mastitis, somatic cell count and body condition, and this chapter aims to highlight the most recent advances in PLF in this area. Finally, a discussion is presented on the possibility of integrating the information obtained by PLF into a welfare assessment framework.
... Modern methods combine animalbased and resource-or management-based indicators of health and welfare. In the Welfare Quality R (WQ) project, a multinational research project funded by the European Union, welfare assessment methods and corresponding protocols were developed for cattle, pigs and poultry (6,7). In a follow-up project, similar protocols were also developed for sheep (8) and goats (9). ...
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Improving animal health and welfare in livestock systems depends on reliable proxies for assessment and monitoring. The aim of this project was to develop a novel method that relies on animal-based indicators and data-driven metrics for assessing health and welfare at farm level for the most common livestock species in Switzerland. Method development followed a uniform multi-stage process for each species. Scientific literature was systematically reviewed to identify potential health and welfare indicators for cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and poultry. Suitable indicators were applied in the field and compared with outcomes of the Welfare Quality® scores of a given farm. To identify farms at risk for violations of animal welfare regulations, several agricultural and animal health databases were interconnected and various supervised machine-learning techniques were applied to model the status of farms. Literature reviews identified a variety of indicators, some of which are well established, while others lack reliability or practicability, or still need further validation. Data quality and availability strongly varied among animal species, with most data available for dairy cows and pigs. Data-based indicators were almost exclusively limited to the categories "Animal health" and "Husbandry and feeding". The assessment of "Appropriate behavior" and "Freedom from pain, suffering, harm and anxiety" depended largely on indicators that had to be assessed and monitored on-farm. The different machine-learning techniques used to identify farms for risk-based animal welfare inspections reached similar classification performances with sensitivities above 80%. Features with the highest predictive weights were: Participation in federal ecological and animal welfare programs, farm demographics and farmers' notification discipline for animal movements. A common method with individual sets of indicators for each species was developed. The results show that, depending on data availability for the individual animal categories, models based on proxy data can achieve high correlations with animal health and welfare assessed on-farm. Nevertheless, for sufficient validity, a combination of data-based indicators and on-farm assessments is currently required. For a broad implementation of the methods, alternatives to extensive manual on-farm assessments are needed, whereby smart farming technologies have great potential to support the assessment if the specific monitoring goals are defined.
... farming, zoos, companion). Another initiative to include a wider range of criteria, in particular positive welfare as well as contextual parameters (Blokhuis et al., 2010) is offered by the Welfare Quality Network (Blokhuis et al., 2013). For example, when considering the welfare of fly larvae, it may be beneficial to prioritize factors such as substrate preference, or abiotic conditions that mimic natural day and night cycles (fluctuating temperatures and varying light exposure). ...
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Insect farming for animal feed production is considered a promising alternative to the traditional feed manufacturing sector, because of its low ecological footprint and circular use of required resources. However, treating insects as mini-livestock is accompanied by various questions on the suitable rearing conditions needed to achieve high-quality products, while considering insect welfare. Although there are concepts which have long served as a compass for animal welfare regulations, these have been under increasing criticism. Also, they have been drawn up for vertebrate animals and are, therefore, not entirely applicable to insects. We hold that the development of commonly accepted methods for keeping insects as mini-livestock demands deep knowledge on insect biology and a dynamic discussion on insect welfare. We plead for an evaluation of the relevant ethical and empirical aspects of insect rearing conditions and for establishing welfare criteria based on these evaluations. By addressing several questions and uncertainties from an interdisciplinary perspective of entomology, animal ethics and philosophy of mind, we argue that taking into account current knowledge on insect biology could aid in the emergence of a novel, well-informed and integrated perspective on insect welfare. Ultimately, our goal is to trace the necessary biological factors for designing implementable and appropriate insect rearing conditions, in order to avoid ethical mistakes that have historically been made in animal production systems.
Animal welfare standards are used within the food industry to demonstrate efforts in reaching higher welfare on farms. To verify compliance with those standards, inspectors conduct regular on-farm animal welfare assessments. Conducting these welfare assessments can, however, be time-consuming and prone to human bias. The emergence of Digital Livestock Technologies (DLTs) offers new ways of monitoring farm animal welfare and can alleviate some of the challenges related to animal welfare assessments by collecting data automatically and more frequently. Whilst automating welfare assessments with DLTs may be promising, little attention has been paid to farmers' perceptions of the challenges that could prevent successful implementation. This study aims to address this gap by focusing on the trial of a DLT (a 3D machinelearning camera) to automate mobility and body condition scoring on 11 dairy cattle farms. Semi-structured, in-depth interviews were conducted with farmers, technology developers and a stakeholder involved in a farm assurance scheme (N14). Findings suggest that stakeholders perceived important benefits to the use of the camera in this context, from building consumer trust by increasing transparency to improved management efficiency. There was also a potential for greater consistency in data collection and thus for enhanced fairness across the UK dairy sector, particularly on the issue of lameness prevalence. However, stakeholders also raised important concerns, such as a lack of clarity around data ownership, reliability, and use, and the possibility of some farmers being penalised (e.g., if the technology failed to work). More clarity should thus be given to farmers in relation to data governance and evidence provided in terms of technical performance and accuracy. The findings of this study highlighted the need for more inclusive approaches to ensure farmers' concerns are adequately identified and addressed. These approaches can help minimise negative consequences to farmers and animal welfare, whilst maximising the potential benefits of automating welfare-related data collection.
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It has been suggested that grazing horses could be used as a credible tool for landscape conservation which would, at the same time, improve horse welfare as opposed to conventional housing. A study was conducted between May 2014 and April 2015 on 12 one year old Gotland ponies managed extensively without supplementary feed. Monthly animal welfare assessments (n = 13) revealed welfare issues in most of the horses, i.e. low body condition score (BCS < 3/5), recurring poor skin condition in 11/12 horses and ocular discharge in 7/12 horses. At the end of the study, compared to the beginning, chafing and poor skin condition increased while coat condition improved. A correlation was found between a negative reaction (score > 0) in the human approach test and BCS < 3 and ocular discharge. Avoidance Distance test values were correlated with faecal parasite counts (> 350 eggs per gram [EPG]). These results indicate that the horses had acceptable welfare during late spring/summer (May–September) and that some horses required additional feed during winter. The animal welfare protocol proved to be an efficient tool for monitoring welfare. The results showed that factors important for extensive management are: daily monitoring; enclosures that provide sufficient feed; access to recovery enclosure; and habituation of horses to human approach.
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This study, commissioned by the Policy Department for Citizens' Rights and Constitutional Affairs upon request of the Committee on Petitions, finds out that EU animal welfare policy and legislation has had much positive influence in the world, on the image of the EU as well as helping animals. However, most kinds of animals kept in the EU are not covered by legislation, including some of the worst animal welfare problems, so a general animal welfare law and specific laws on several species are needed. Animal sentience and welfare should be mentioned, using accurate scientific terminology, in many trade-related laws as well as in animal-specific laws.
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That humans exploit animals, often in cruel ways, is not open to doubt. Reponsibility for exploitation and cruelty lies unambiguously on the human side of any human-animal divide. For this reason, relations between humans and animals might be described as profoundly asymmetrical (Schiktanz 2004: 2). Asymmetry emerges whenever animals are confined for human purposes, for instance in farms, zoos and homes. As Schiktanz (2004: 2) puts it, “the animal itself has usually no opportunity to force its necessities – everything depends on the good will of the human ‘owner’”. Such asymmetric relations are apparently inevitable, especially in the agricultural domain where billions of animals are raised for slaughter. In fact, farm-based asymmetry is undoubtedly widespread as the modern industrial system leads to the ever-greater intensification, industrialisation and mechanisation of animal production (Fiddes, 1990; Rifkin, 1992; Strassart and Whatmore, 2003).
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Providing information to consumers in the form of food labels about modern systems of animal farming is believed to be crucial for increasing their awareness of animal suffering and for promoting technological change towards more welfare-friendly forms of husbandry (CIWF, 2007). In this paper we want to explore whether and how food labels carrying information about the lives of animals are used by consumers while shopping for meat and other animal foods. In order to achieve this, we draw upon a series of focus group discussions that were held in Italy as part of a large EU funded project (Welfare Quality®). In the focus group discussions we addressed how, when or if, claims made about the lives of animals on food labels intervened in what the participants bought and ate. We contend that such labels bring the lives of animals to the forefront and act as new ‘subjectifiers’ (Latour, 200526. Latour, B. (2005) ‘Reassembling the Social, An introduction to Actor-Network-Theory’ (Oxford: Oxford University Press) View all references: 212) that offer a new tool for becoming an ‘ethically competent consumer’, who cares about the lives of animals while shopping for food. However, this offer is not always easily accommodated within existing competences and previous commitments, as it requires a reassessment of existing, and often intimate, practices of shopping, cooking and eating. We argue that new labels carrying welfare claims, with their intention of increasing market transparency, produce two contrasting outcomes: they open new spaces of action, which offer an opportunity for investing in new competences and for engaging with animal welfare issues, in short, they allow an ‘ethically competent consumer’ to emerge, but they also produce another outcome, or a collateral casualty (Bauman, 20074. Bauman, Z. (2007) Collateral Casualties of Consumerism, International Journal of Consumer Culture, 7 (1) pp. 25–56 View all references), namely the ethically non-competent consumer. ‘In daily matters, be competent’ (From How to live ethically, the Tao Te Ching)
For a long time legislation has been the commonest way of protecting farm animal welfare but more recently growing consumer demand both for quality food products and more ethical food production has meant that farm animal welfare is emerging as an area of potential added value for producers, retailers and other food chain actors. To support chain actors in their efforts, Welfare Quality® has been investigating the impact of these new consumer demands, and the current industry responses to them. Research carried out by Welfare Quality® in Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, the UK, France and Italy looked at how animal welfare is mobilised from farm to supermarket shelf as a means of both achieving increased product value and broader ethical branding.
The role of the veterinarian in animal welfare. Animal welfare: too much or too little? The 21st Sympos ium of the Nordic Committee for Veterinary Scientific Cooperation (NKVet) Meeting