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Animals 2013, 3(3), 786-807; doi:10.3390/ani3030786

The Effect of Steps to Promote Higher Levels of Farm Animal Welfare across the EU. Societal versus Animal Scientists’ Perceptions of Animal Welfare

Departamento de Producción Animal y Ciencia de los Alimentos, Universidad de Extremadura, Avda. de la Universidad s/n Campus Universitario, 10003 Cáceres, Spain
Centro Ricerche Produzioni Animali C.R.P.A. S.p.A., Viale Timavo 43/2, 42121, Reggio Emilia, Italy
School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 7RU, UK
Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL), Ackerstrasse, 5070 Frick, Switzerland
Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ss. Cyril and Methodius University, 1000 Skopje, Republic of Macedonia
Wageningen UR Livestock Research, P.O. Box 65, 8200 AB Lelystad, The Netherlands
Present address: Animal Production, Neiker-Tecnalia, Arkaute Agrifood Campus, P.O. Box 46, 01080 Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain.
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 20 June 2013 / Revised: 8 August 2013 / Accepted: 8 August 2013 / Published: 14 August 2013
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Future of Farm Animal Welfare)
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Simple Summary

We studied different EU production standards and initiatives to determine whether there is still room or not for further animal welfare improvement, and which should be the best way to achieve it. Many of the adopted measures in these standards and initiatives are scientifically supported, but other aspects that are equally important for animal welfare are not included in any of them. Animal welfare improvement should consider, for each country, those aspects actually benefiting animals, but also the social expectations within each country. Economic constraints might explain the gap between what society demands, and what farm animals actually need.


Information about animal welfare standards and initiatives from eight European countries was collected, grouped, and compared to EU welfare standards to detect those aspects beyond minimum welfare levels demanded by EU welfare legislation. Literature was reviewed to determine the scientific relevance of standards and initiatives, and those aspects going beyond minimum EU standards. Standards and initiatives were assessed to determine their strengths and weaknesses regarding animal welfare. Attitudes of stakeholders in the improvement of animal welfare were determined through a Policy Delphi exercise. Social perception of animal welfare, economic implications of upraising welfare levels, and differences between countries were considered. Literature review revealed that on-farm space allowance, climate control, and environmental enrichment are relevant for all animal categories. Experts’ assessment revealed that on-farm prevention of thermal stress, air quality, and races and passageways’ design were not sufficiently included. Stakeholders considered that housing conditions are particularly relevant regarding animal welfare, and that animal-based and farm-level indicators are fundamental to monitor the progress of animal welfare. The most notable differences between what society offers and what farm animals are likely to need are related to transportation and space availability, with economic constraints being the most plausible explanation. View Full-Text
Keywords: animal welfare; European Union; animal welfare initiative; societal perceptions; standards animal welfare; European Union; animal welfare initiative; societal perceptions; standards
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Averós, X.; Aparicio, M.A.; Ferrari, P.; Guy, J.H.; Hubbard, C.; Schmid, O.; Ilieski, V.; Spoolder, H.A.M. The Effect of Steps to Promote Higher Levels of Farm Animal Welfare across the EU. Societal versus Animal Scientists’ Perceptions of Animal Welfare. Animals 2013, 3, 786-807.

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