Animal welfare: animal-based indicators

Animal welfare: animal-based indicators


Hi, my name is Franck and I am a scientist at EFSA,
working in the area of animal health and welfare. Today I am going to talk to you
about animal-based indicators. A very specific aspect of our
work related to animal welfare. But before I do that
I would just like to briefly explain how
an organisation like EFSA that deals primarily
with food safety has a role to play in animal welfare. Well, in fact the answer to
this question is quite simple. We know that the safety of
our food chain can be indirectly affected by
the welfare of animals. This is because stress, injuries
and poor welfare all together can lead to infectious
diseases among animals, some of them being
food-borne to consumers. One example of how
animal welfare might affect the food safety is
tail biting among pigs. This is a major welfare
issue on pig farms and it is also a risk factor
of increasing the frequency of abscesses
and infections in carcasses. If you remember earlier
I said I wanted to talk to you about animal-based indicators;
what are they and why are they so important? ‘Animal-based indicators’
is a term used by scientists to describe the way in
which the welfare of an animal is measured, but
in fact it is a very basic concept and something we are probably
all familiar with in our daily lives. For example, when you measure your
body temperature you do this in the knowledge that
this is a good indication of fever. The same principle can also
be applied by scientists when they assess
the welfare of animals. The challenge, and this
is where EFSA plays an important role, comes
in finding the most effective indicator, or combination of indicators for
what we are trying to measure. Now let’s go back to our
example – tail biting. We know that this is an indicator of
poor welfare, but it is not very specific because many different
factors can lead to tail biting, making it
difficult to tell exactly what is affecting the pig’s welfare. And so, in all fairness,
it may reflect only part of the factors influencing
the pig’s welfare. However, tail biting may
become an effective indicator when it is combined
with other indicators. Taken together
they are likely to give a fair overall assessment
of the welfare of the pig. This aspect of EFSA’s
work reflects a shift in the way in
which scientists also policymakers in Europe
are considering animal welfare assessment. It is a move away from a
system that measures the environment in which the animal lives
– such as access to water or food, or housing
– towards a system that will measure how the animal
itself will respond to the environment. It is hoped that this will lead
to a more effective and efficient way of assessing animal
welfare, whatever farming system is used. EFSA’s advice in this area
is designed to support the work of the European Commission and
come soon after the launch of the EU animal welfare
strategy 2012-2015.

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