Animal welfare is a major concern for European consumers. As such, there is a clear need to improve the monitoring of animal welfare amongst livestock populations. The EU-funded WELFARE INDICATORS (Development, integration and dissemination of animal-based welfare indicators, including pain, in commercially important husbandry species, with special emphasis on small ruminants, equidae & turkeys) project highlighted the need for a science-based approach to animal welfare issues. Overall, the aim was to develop and test welfare, including pain, indicators for sheep, goats, horses, donkeys and turkeys, and in general enhance the science of animal welfare in Europe and beyond. Project partners developed animal welfare assessment protocols for the five species aimed at identifying optimal ways to improve animal welfare while ensuring the future sustainability of animal production. The protocols were then made available via interactive apps for mobile devices. The effect of diseases and pain on animal welfare was examined, with a focus on behavioural and physiological indicators of pain and discomfort. Researchers studied husbandry factors that may impact prenatal programming and possibly affect the validity and reliability of welfare indicators. In 2013, WELFARE INDICATORS launched the Animal Welfare Science Hub, a global repository for current scientific knowledge and learning resources on animal welfare for students, professionals and other relevant stakeholders. The content management system covers all species and promotes animal welfare science to the general public. It fosters local and international discussions, and facilitates and strengthens networking and research on animal welfare issues. Animal welfare courses are also highlighted. By introducing an information platform that facilitates welfare knowledge transfer around the world, WELFARE INDICATORS has helped to change the way people learn, work, communicate and care for their animals.
Animal welfare, livestock, welfare indicators, husbandry, pain indicators