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Animal welfare: establishing a dialogue between science and society. (Special Issue: Knowing animals.)

By M. Miele, I. Veissier, A. Evans, R. Botreau

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Farm animal welfare has become an important issue for the European public, especially in the last two decades when a number of crises (eg Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy and Avian Influenzalu) have affected farm animal populations. Public concern about this issue led the European Union to fund the Welfare QualityReg. project. This project aimed to develop a protocol for assessing animal welfare on farms and at slaughter plants, to identify the main animal welfare problems, and to address possible welfare improvement strategies. In fulfilling these aims, the Welfare QualityReg. project incorporated inputs from both science and society. This was crucial, as the public perception of what constitutes 'animal welfare' sometimes differs from animal science-based definitions. Furthermore, these differences are often interwoven with broader variations in ethical- and value-based understandings about human/non-human animal relationships. This paper presents the steps that we adopted to establish a dialogue between science and society during the construction of the Welfare QualityReg. assessment protocols. This dialogue involved numerous interactions between animal scientists, social scientists and members of the public. These interactions took several forms, including: meetings, conferences, workshops, websites, newsletters, interviews, focus groups, and citizen and farmers juries. Here, we address four key moments within this dialogue: the development of the initial list of twelve welfare criteria; the consumer focus groups; the development of the Welfare QualityReg. scoring system; and the citizen juries. In particular, we focus on the results of the focus groups and citizen juries. The focus groups were conducted in France, Italy, Sweden, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Norway, and Hungary and the citizen juries were carried out in Italy, the United Kingdom, and Norway. Drawing on this research, we highlight the similarities and differences between societal understandings of farm animal welfare and the views of scientific experts. Furthermore, and crucially, we outline how the animal scientists took account of societal opinion when developing their farm animal welfare assessment tools.

Date 2011
Publication Title Animal Welfare
Volume 20
Issue 1
Pages 103-117
ISBN/ISSN 0962-7286
Language English
Author Address School of City and Regional Planning, Glamorgan Building, King Edward VII Avenue, Cardiff University, Cardiff CF10 3WA, UK.
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal diseases
  2. Animal health and hygiene
  3. Animal rights
  4. Animal roles
  5. Animals in culture
  6. Animal welfare
  7. Bovine spongiform encephalopathy.
  8. British Isles
  9. Cattle
  10. Commonwealth of Nations
  11. Developed countries
  12. Encephalitis
  13. Europe
  14. Farms
  15. France
  16. Great Britain
  17. Hungary
  18. Interactions
  19. interviews
  20. Italy
  21. Mad cow disease
  22. Mammals
  23. Mediterranean region
  24. Netherlands
  25. Norway
  26. OECD countries
  27. pathogens
  28. perceptions
  29. Plants
  30. Primates
  31. Scandinavia
  32. scoring systems
  33. spongiform encephalopathy
  34. Sweden
  35. United Kingdom