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Animal Welfare Management in a Digital World

1
Department of Geography, University of Exeter, Rennes Drive, Exeter EX4 4RJ, UK
2
Department of Animal Environment and Health, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, P.O. Box 7068, 750 07 Uppsala, Sweden
3
Wageningen UR, Wageningen Livestock Research, P.O. Box 338, 6700AH Wageningen, The Netherlands
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UMR Herbivores, Université Clermont Auvergne, INRAE, VetAgro Sup, 63122 Saint-Genès-Champanelle, France
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2020, 10(10), 1779; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10101779
Received: 10 September 2020 / Revised: 23 September 2020 / Accepted: 24 September 2020 / Published: 1 October 2020
(This article belongs to the Section Animal Welfare)
The digital revolution opens possibilities to use multiple sensors, a data infrastructure and data analytics to monitor animals or their environment 24/7. Precision Livestock Farming (PLF) offers significant opportunities for a holistic, evidence-based approach to the monitoring and surveillance of farmed animal welfare. To date, the emphasis of PLF has been on animal health and productivity. If PLF develops further along these lines, there is a risk that animal health and productivity define welfare. A combined multi-actor approach that brings together industry, scientists, food chain actors, policy-makers and NGOs is needed to develop and use the promise of PLF for the creative and effective improvement of farmed animal welfare, not only taking into account their physical welfare but also their mental one.
Although there now exists a wide range of policies, instruments and regulations, in Europe and increasingly beyond, to improve and safeguard the welfare of farmed animals, there remain persistent and significant welfare issues in virtually all types of animal production systems ranging from high prevalence of lameness to limited possibilities to express natural behaviours. Protocols and indicators, such as those provided by Welfare Quality, mean that animal welfare can nowadays be regularly measured and surveyed at the farm level. However, the digital revolution in agriculture opens possibilities to quantify animal welfare using multiple sensors and data analytics. This allows daily monitoring of animal welfare at the group and individual animal level, for example, by measuring changes in behaviour patterns or physiological parameters. The present paper explores the potential for developing innovations in digital technologies to improve the management of animal welfare at the farm, during transport or at slaughter. We conclude that the innovations in Precision Livestock Farming (PLF) offer significant opportunities for a more holistic, evidence-based approach to the monitoring and surveillance of farmed animal welfare. To date, the emphasis in much PLF technologies has been on animal health and productivity. This paper argues that this emphasis should not come to define welfare. What is now needed is a coming together of industry, scientists, food chain actors, policy-makers and NGOs to develop and use the promise of PLF for the creative and effective improvement of farmed animal welfare. View Full-Text
Keywords: animal welfare; precision livestock farming; welfare management; welfare monitoring; welfare assurance animal welfare; precision livestock farming; welfare management; welfare monitoring; welfare assurance
MDPI and ACS Style

Buller, H.; Blokhuis, H.; Lokhorst, K.; Silberberg, M.; Veissier, I. Animal Welfare Management in a Digital World. Animals 2020, 10, 1779. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10101779

AMA Style

Buller H, Blokhuis H, Lokhorst K, Silberberg M, Veissier I. Animal Welfare Management in a Digital World. Animals. 2020; 10(10):1779. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10101779

Chicago/Turabian Style

Buller, Henry, Harry Blokhuis, Kees Lokhorst, Mathieu Silberberg, and Isabelle Veissier. 2020. "Animal Welfare Management in a Digital World" Animals 10, no. 10: 1779. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10101779

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