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The Importance of the Social Sciences in Reducing Tail Biting Prevalence in Pigs

1
Animal Behaviour Centre, School of Psychology, Queen’s University Belfast, David Keir Building, 18–30 Malone Road, Belfast BT9 5BN, Northern Ireland, UK
2
Centre for Improving Health Related Quality of Life (CIHRQoL), School of Psychology, Queen’s University Belfast, David Keir Building, 18–30 Malone Road, Belfast BT9 5BN, Northern Ireland, UK
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2019, 9(9), 591; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9090591
Received: 31 July 2019 / Revised: 18 August 2019 / Accepted: 19 August 2019 / Published: 21 August 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Tail Biting in Pigs―Aetiology, Risk Factors and Solutions)
Tail lesions are a major welfare concern within pig farming. Tail lesions result from biting and chewing of the tail of one pig by another and can indicate boredom and frustration within the herd. While extensive research has been carried out to understand and eliminate tail biting in pigs, findings from scientific studies have often not been applied in practice. This may be due, in part, to a failure to consider the role of farmer behaviour in improving animal welfare. If farmer behaviour does not change, it is unlikely that tail lesion prevalence will change from current levels. In this paper, the shortcomings of traditional behaviour change theories were discussed and a guide for designing human behaviour change interventions for pig farmers was provided. It is essential that collaborations between social scientists and animal welfare scientists occur if research findings are to be put into practice on farms.
Tail biting in pigs has been recognised as a welfare problem for several decades, being referred to in scientific literature as far back as the 1940s. Today, animal welfare scientists have a solid understanding of the aetiology of tail biting. Despite this, there has been a major failure in applying research findings on commercial farms. Consequently, tail biting remains a significant problem in modern intensive pig farming. Of all farming industry stakeholders, farmers have the greatest influence over the welfare of their animals. Despite this, little animal welfare research has focused on changing farmer behaviour. Understanding the reasons why farmers act or fail to act to improve animal welfare is key if research findings are to be translated into practical on-farm change. Adopting the principles of behavioural science, this review discussed theory-based methods of identifying barriers to effective tail biting management. A guide was provided for designing behaviour change interventions for farmers using The Behaviour Change Wheel, a systematic framework that links the source of behaviour to suitable interventions. It was concluded that the social sciences are of great importance to ensuring that theory is put into practice. View Full-Text
Keywords: tail biting; pig welfare; health psychology; behaviour change; intervention tail biting; pig welfare; health psychology; behaviour change; intervention
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MDPI and ACS Style

Carroll, G.A.; Groarke, J.M. The Importance of the Social Sciences in Reducing Tail Biting Prevalence in Pigs. Animals 2019, 9, 591. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9090591

AMA Style

Carroll GA, Groarke JM. The Importance of the Social Sciences in Reducing Tail Biting Prevalence in Pigs. Animals. 2019; 9(9):591. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9090591

Chicago/Turabian Style

Carroll, Grace A.; Groarke, Jenny M. 2019. "The Importance of the Social Sciences in Reducing Tail Biting Prevalence in Pigs" Animals 9, no. 9: 591. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9090591

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