Daniel Haybron's theory of welfare and its implications for animal welfare assessment

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Two accounts of welfare that are currently used in animal welfare assessments are firstly the Brambell committee's account that focuses on the absence of negative feelings and the capacity to display normal behaviour, and secondly an alternative account that focuses on the animal's capacity to display its normal behaviour and thereby to adapt to changing living conditions up to a level that it experiences as positive. Both accounts seem to be concerned with both, the animal's state of mind and its capacity to behave according to its nature. In order to better understand - and maybe even improve - these accounts of welfare, it is helpful to ask two questions: Firstly, which states of mind are important with regard to welfare? Secondly, how does the importance of those states of mind relate to the importance of behaviour in accordance with the animal's nature? Daniel Haybron's theory of welfare provides new and original answers to both questions. Haybron's affective state view conceives of happiness as a 'mental state', but unlike hedonism its focus is on emotions and moods, rather than merely on (un)pleasant experiences. The affective state view is concerned with a being's overall emotional state and includes a being's propensity for experiencing various emotions and moods. According to Haybron self-fulfillment is central to welfare, and an animal's emotional state is part of its self-fulfillment. Haybron's aswers might be useful for understanding and even improving the accounts that are currently used in assessments of animal welfare. In order to find out whether this is indeed the case, Haybron's theory of welfare and its implications for animal welfare assessment should be further explored and evaluated.

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Observation of behaviour, especially social behaviour, and experimental studies of learning and brain function give us information about the complexity of concepts that animals have. In order to learn to obtain a resource or carry out an action, domestic animals may: relate stimuli such as human words to the reward, perform sequences of actions including navigation or detours, discriminate amongst other individuals, copy the actions of other individuals, distinguish between individuals who do or do not have information, or communicate so as to cause humans or other animals to carry out actions. Some parrots, that are accustomed to humans but not domesticated, can use words to have specific meanings. In some cases, stimuli, individuals or actions are remembered for days, weeks or years. Events likely to occur in the future may be predicted and changes over time taken into account. Scientific evidence for the needs of animals depends, in part, on studies assessing motivational strength whose methodology depends on the cognitive ability of the animals.
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The concept of natural behavior is a key element in current Dutch policy-making on animal welfare. It emphasizes that animals need positive experiences, in addition to minimized suffering. This paper interprets the concept of natural behavior in the context of the scientific framework for welfare assessment. Natural behavior may be defined as behavior that animals have a tendency to exhibit under natural conditions, because these behaviors are pleasurable and promote biological functioning. Animal welfare is the quality of life as perceived by the animal. Animals have evolved cognitive-emotional systems (“welfare needs”) to deal with a variable environment. Animals do not only have so-called physiological needs such as the need for food, water, and thermal comfort. They also need to exercise certain natural behaviors such as rooting or nest-building in pigs, and scratching or dust-bathing in poultry. All needs must be taken into account in order to assess overall welfare. The degree of need satisfaction and frustration can be assessed from scientific information about the intensity, duration, and incidence of (welfare) performance criteria such as measurements of behavior and/or (patho)physiology. Positive welfare value relates to how animals are inclined to behave under natural conditions, in preference tests, and in consumer-demand studies. Negative welfare value relates to stress, frustration, abnormal behavior, aggression, and reduced fitness. Examples are given to illustrate how the need to perform natural behaviors can be assessed following the general principles for welfare assessment, providing a first approximation of how different natural behaviors affect animal welfare.
The general concept of animal welfare embraces a continuum between negative/bad welfare and positive/good welfare. Early approaches to defining animal welfare were mainly based on the exclusion of negative states, neglecting the fact that during evolution animals optimised their ability to interact with and adapt to their environment(s). An animal's welfare status might best be represented by the adaptive value of the individual's interaction with a given environmental setting but this dynamic welfare concept has significant implications for practical welfare assessments. Animal welfare issues cannot simply be addressed by means of objective biological measurements of an animal's welfare status under certain circumstances. In practice, interpretation of welfare status and its translation into the active management of perceived welfare issues are both strongly influenced by context and, especially, by cultural and societal values. In assessing whether or not a given welfare status is morally acceptable, animal welfare scientists must be aware that scientifically based, operational definitions of animal welfare will necessarily be influenced strongly by a given society's moral understanding.
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