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.
Abstract: 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.
Keywords: animal welfare; European Union; animal welfare initiative; societal perceptions; standards
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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.
Averós X, Aparicio MA, Ferrari P, Guy JH, Hubbard C, Schmid O, Ilieski V, Spoolder HAM. 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(3):786-807.
Averós, Xavier; Aparicio, Miguel A.; Ferrari, Paolo; Guy, Jonathan H.; Hubbard, Carmen; Schmid, Otto; Ilieski, Vlatko; Spoolder, Hans A.M. 2013. "The Effect of Steps to Promote Higher Levels of Farm Animal Welfare across the EU. Societal versus Animal Scientists’ Perceptions of Animal Welfare." Animals 3, no. 3: 786-807.