University of Cambridge > > Centre for Animal Welfare & Anthrozoology Seminars > Assessing Animal Welfare: Does One Size Fit All?

Assessing Animal Welfare: Does One Size Fit All?

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Anthony Podberscek.

There is still considerable debate around the concept of animal welfare and how it can be better assessed and monitored from an animal perspective. Despite some recent attempts by academics and policy makers to present different policy objectives and instruments to improve animal welfare across the European Union, rarely is it taken into account that specific instruments and/or indicators are better suited to some conditions and situations than others. Farm animals may enjoy good standards of care in a country where there is little or no discussion about welfare per se, but where traditional management methods already permit a high degree of behavioural freedom. The reverse may also be true. In some countries there may be much discussion about animal welfare, but no or few policies in place to improve it. Although the issues are usually linked, the relationship between maturity in animal welfare policy-making and animal welfare per se is not necessarily linear and different indicators are required to monitor development.

This presentation attempts to shed light on some of these issues, following work carried out in the EUFP7 project, EconWelfare. It examines the importance and effectiveness of a selection of policy instruments and indicators in delivering farm animal welfare policy objectives. Almost 200 individuals, classified into five categories of experts from eight countries took part in a Policy Delphi exercise to explore these issues. Results suggest that perceptions of the importance and effectiveness of measures vary significantly across countries and experts. Thus, the negotiation of an appropriate national response to the decision to further improve farm animal welfare will be problematic, as conflicting viewpoints of different interest groups may need to be reconciled. One crucial element is the need for individual countries to have the autonomy to decide upon the specific ways and means that they will adopt to achieve the overall goal of improved farm animal welfare. The ability to tailor policies and instruments to national experiences and to reflect different cultural priorities will be an important factor in increasing the likelihood of various stakeholders supporting the development of new European animal welfare directives. Such findings suggest that a heterogeneous approach to the delivery of improved animal welfare is required across Europe and that a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to policy measures may not be appropriate.

This talk is part of the Centre for Animal Welfare & Anthrozoology Seminars series.

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