In 2018, ANSES (French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety) has defined animal welfare as ‘the positive mental and physical state related to the satisfaction of its physiological and behavioural needs, as well as its expectations. This state varies according to the perception of the situation by the animal’. This definition applies to all the animals that live under the control of humans (farming, pets, laboratory, zoos). Here, the definition is applied more specifically to farmed animals, in order to better understand their place in sustainable agriculture.
Animals are sentient beings, able to experience physical and psychic feelings. Therefore, in 1979 the Farm Animal Welfare Council published the Five freedom principle (updated in 2009) which lists the fundamental conditions of good treatment to ensure the animal’s welfare:
- Freedom from hunger and thirst
- Freedom from discomfort
- Freedom from pain, injury or disease
- Freedom from fear and distress
- Freedom to express normal behavior.
Beyond sentience, the multidisciplinary scientific assessment, recently conducted by Inra (French national institute for agricultural research), demonstrates the existence of consciousness in animals. They have a subjective experience of their environment and of their relationship with this environment. To assess the animals’ welfare and quality of life, it is necessary to go beyond good treatment and take into account the animals’ point of view.
The agroecological dimension of livestock farming is based upon the concept of ‘One Welfare’, whereby the welfare of the animals and the breeder (job satisfaction, social recognition, etc.) as well as the environment protection are interdependent. Thus, citizens’ high expectations encourage professionals to reconsider livestock breeding systems in order to place animal welfare at the heart of a sustainable agricultural activity.
References to explore
Le Neindre, P., Bernard, E., Boissy, A., Boivin, X., Calandreau, L., Delon, N., Deputte, B., Desmoulin‐Canselier, S., Dunier, M., Faivre, N., Giurfa, M., Guichet, J., Lansade, L., Larrère, R., Mormède, P., Prunet, P., Schaal, B., Servière, J., Terlouw, C. 2017. Animal consciousness. EFSA Supporting Publications, 14 (4) – EN-1196. GBR : John Wiley Sons Ltd. 165 p. DOI : 10.2903/sp.efsa.2017.EN-1196