‘Animal welfare policy is certainly one of the most complex issues the agricultural sector and the community have to grapple with, and it is important to approach it carefully and objectively, without knee-jerk decisions driven by emotive images or anthropomorphism’, according to Mick Keogh, Executive Director of the Australian Farm Institute.
This is a key message arising from a series of papers on farm animal welfare included in the latest edition of the Australian Farm Institute’s Farm Policy Journalreleased today.
‘Animal welfare is complex because the concept is interpreted in vastly different ways depending on the country you live in, the industry you work for, your personal experience with animals and to some extent your personal beliefs and values.
‘For example an animal welfare activist, focusing entirely on the presumed welfare of a sow, might be horrified at the thought of the sow being confined in a small area in the first few weeks after giving birth to piglets. For a farmer focusing on the collective welfare of the sow and her piglets, briefly confining the sow dramatically reduces the number of piglets that get killed by the sow, and therefore results in a net animal welfare gain.
‘The high degree of subjectivity associated with animal welfare reinforces the need for an objective and pragmatic approach, which is science-based and which recognises the realities of productive livestock farming.
‘Scientists and animal experts have been working hard to better understand how to assess and improve the welfare of farm animals. It includes veterinarians, animal behaviourists, and animal physiologists. Their findings over the last 50 years have already contributed to significant changes in the way livestock are farmed. In fact many of the success stories, where farm animals ultimately experience improved welfare, arise from situations where farmers, scientists and NGOs all work together to achieve changes. READ MORE