Mutilating Procedures, Management Practices, and Housing Conditions That May Affect the Welfare of Farm Animals: Implications for Welfare Research

Animals (Basel). 2017 Feb 21;7(2):12. doi: 10.3390/ani7020012.

Abstract

A number of mutilating procedures, such as dehorning in cattle and goats and beak trimming in laying hens, are common in farm animal husbandry systems in an attempt to prevent or solve problems, such as injuries from horns or feather pecking. These procedures and other practices, such as early maternal separation, overcrowding, and barren housing conditions, raise concerns about animal welfare. Efforts to ensure or improve animal welfare involve adapting the animal to its environment, i.e., by selective breeding (e.g., by selecting "robust" animals) adapting the environment to the animal (e.g., by developing social housing systems in which aggressive encounters are reduced to a minimum), or both. We propose adapting the environment to the animals by improving management practices and housing conditions, and by abandoning mutilating procedures. This approach requires the active involvement of all stakeholders: veterinarians and animal scientists, the industrial farming sector, the food processing and supply chain, and consumers of animal-derived products. Although scientific evidence about the welfare effects of current practices in farming such as mutilating procedures, management practices, and housing conditions is steadily growing, the gain in knowledge needs a boost through more scientific research. Considering the huge number of animals whose welfare is affected, all possible effort must be made to improve their welfare as quickly as possible in order to ban welfare-compromising procedures and practices as soon as possible.

Keywords: animal welfare; housing conditions; management practices; mutilating procedures.