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Ethics of feeding: the omnivore dilemma

By I. H. E. Kasanen, D. B. Sorensen, B. Forkman, P. Sandoe

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The way in which animals are fed is an important aspect of their welfare. Not only does food provide the energy and nutrients vital for survival, but feeding is also associated with a number of other factors contributing to the well-being of animals. The feeding method can determine the animals' abilities to fulfil basic behavioural needs, such as foraging. The aim of this paper is to review and discuss the dilemma of choosing between ad libitum feeding (AL) and dietary restriction (DR). AL can produce obese individuals with severe health problems, though it does appear to be compatible with welfare-friendly management systems. On the other hand, DR is often associated with improved physical health and longevity but can leave animals suffering from hunger, frustration or aggression. The species discussed are the laboratory rat, pigs and poultry all of which are omnivores sharing many characteristics in their eating habits. The welfare implications of different feeding methods depend upon the definition of welfare used. Based on a definition of welfare in terms of functioning, DR could be considered the best way to feed animals, because it results in improved physical health and longevity. If welfare is defined in terms of natural living, it is also a requirement for the animal to be able to engage in natural foraging behaviours. From the feelings-based approach, DR can be viewed as preferable only in circumstances when animals are anticipated to live so long that they would otherwise suffer from the negative long-term consequences of AL. It is argued that incentives are needed to make farmers spend resources to ensure that farm animals are allowed to have their foraging-related needs fulfilled. Feeding of laboratory animals creates special dilemmas when it is important either to under- or over-nourish the animals for experimental purposes, in such instances there is a need for Refinement.

Date 2010
Publication Title Animal Welfare
Volume 19
Issue 1
Pages 37-44
ISBN/ISSN 0962-7286
Language English
Author Address National Laboratory Animal Centre, University of Kuopio, PO Box 1627, FI-70211 Kuopio, Finland.
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Aggression
  2. Animal behavior
  3. Animal nutrition
  4. Animal rights
  5. Animal welfare
  6. Birds
  7. Diets
  8. Eating habits
  9. Ethics
  10. Farms
  11. Fat
  12. Feeding
  13. Feeding behavior
  14. Food restriction
  15. Foraging
  16. Health
  17. Hunger
  18. Illnesses
  19. Laboratory and experimental animals
  20. Laboratory animal science
  21. Livestock
  22. Longevity
  23. Mammals
  24. Meat animals
  25. nutrients
  26. obesity
  27. peer-reviewed
  28. Poultry
  29. Rats
  30. Rodents
  31. Social psychology and social anthropology
  32. survival
  33. Swine
  1. peer-reviewed