What is animal welfare?
Animal welfare describes how an animal is coping mentally and physically with the conditions in which it lives. Achieving good animal welfare relies on providing animals:
- Freedom from hunger or thirst, by providing access to fresh water and an appropriate diet;
- Freedom from fear and distress, through appropriate treatment and surroundings;
- Freedom from discomfort, by providing appropriate environments in which to live;
- Freedom from pain, injury or disease, by prevention and rapid diagnosis and treatment;
- Freedom to express natural behaviour, by providing appropriate space, facilities, and social interactions with members of their own species.
Signs that an animal has a good state of welfare can include longevity, having low levels of disease, displaying normal behaviour, and reproducing normally. Ideas about animal welfare began in ancient civilisations and exist in many religions and cultures today. Many countries incorporate some elements of animal protection in their laws.
People's concerns about animal welfare are normally based on the idea that we should take steps to maximise the well-being of animals, especially wherever we use or interact with them. This includes animals in the wild, those we keep as pets, those we use as entertainment or in research, and those that we use for food. Some in society disagree with the use of animals by people and believe that they should be afforded basic rights in society so as not to be misused by humans.
Regardless of where you stand, interest in animal welfare is on the rise in our society, as it gains more attention in research areas, the media, and politically.