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Animal welfare: should we change housing to better accommodate the animal or change the animal to accommodate the housing?

By Heng-Wei Cheng

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Animal welfare (well-being) can be generally defined as 'a state of harmony between the animal and its environment, characterized by optimal physical, behavioural and psychological functioning and high quality of the animal's life'. Since its inception in the early nineteenth century, through further development during the twentieth century, and continuing through today, the animal welfare/wellbeing movement has had a significant impact globally on monitoring and regulating the practices of the modern livestock production industries. Before the animal welfare movement brings animal agriculture to the next stage, it is necessary to understand the finely tuned balance between animals, especially domestic farm animals, and their environments. It has been known for centuries that some species, strains and/or individuals of animals adapt to their environments better than others. The outcome of the adaptive process, i.e. increased or decreased in terms of welfare, is dependent on the animals' biological characteristics (genes), environmental factors and genetic- environmental interactions. The animal-or-environment dilemma associated with animal welfare has also raised multiple semantic variants among human beings according to a person's education, ethical viewpoint, socio-economic conditions, culture, religion and political beliefs. This review describes the current status of hypotheses and research in the area of the effects of genes, environments and genetic-environmental interactions on animal welfare in the modern livestock production industry.

Date 2007
Publication Title CAB Reviews: Perspectives in Agriculture, Veterinary Science, Nutrition and Natural Resources
Volume 2
Issue 047
Pages 14
ISBN/ISSN 1749-8848
DOI 10.1079/PAVSNNR20072047
Language English
Author Address Livestock Behavior Research Unit, USDA-ARS, W. Lafayette, IN 47907, USA.
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal genetics
  3. Animal housing
  4. Animal husbandry
  5. Animal rights
  6. Animal welfare
  7. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  8. Birds
  9. Breeding
  10. Breeding programs
  11. Chickens
  12. Darwinism
  13. Egg production
  14. Ethics
  15. Evolution
  16. Fowls
  17. Genes
  18. Genotypes
  19. Hens
  20. Laying characters
  21. Laying performance
  22. Mathematics and statistics
  23. peer-reviewed
  24. Poultry
  25. responses
  26. Selection
  27. Social psychology and social anthropology
  28. Stress
  29. Stress response
  30. taxonomy
  1. peer-reviewed