What Are the Positives? Exploring Positive Welfare Indicators in a Qualitative Interview Study with Livestock Farmers
Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), West Mains Road, Edinburgh EH9 3RG, UK
Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh, Penicuik, EH25 9RG, UK
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 6 August 2019
Revised: 30 August 2019
Accepted: 12 September 2019
Published: 17 September 2019
Positive animal welfare is a relatively new concept which promotes the welfare benefits of providing animals with greater opportunities for positive experiences, in addition to minimising negative experiences. However, little is known about farmers’ attitudes towards this, and their knowledge of positive welfare. This presents a significant hurdle for the promotion of positive welfare indicators on-farm, where their effective implementation may depend on their acceptance by farmers. In response, this study uses qualitative interviews to explore farmers’ positive welfare perspectives. It finds that several aspects, reflective of the literature on positive welfare indicators, are evident in farmers’ positive welfare-related discussions. These include animal autonomy, play, positive affect, positive human–animal relationships, social interaction and appropriate genetic selection. Such findings provide insights into what farmers consider are relevant to, and indicative of, positive welfare. In addition, this paper explores how farmers see their role in the provision of positive welfare. It finds that farmers largely consider their inputs should be focused on making sure their animals’ needs (e.g., resources) are met and negative experiences are reduced, and that positive welfare will arise naturally, or indirectly, out of this. The implications of these findings and their overlaps with the positive welfare literature are discussed.