Animal welfare science is a relatively new scientific discipline, evolving mostly from within veterinary medicine over the latter half of the twentieth century into an independent specialty in its own right. Originally, the field of study was heavily focused on animal behavior (ethology), but it has emerged into a truly multi- and inter-disciplinary science, encompassing such sciences as behavior, physiology, pathology, health, immunology, endocrinology, and neuroscience, and influenced by personal and societal ethics. The first academic organization devoted to the scientific study of animal welfare was established in 1966 as the society for veterinary ethology (SVE), demonstrating its veterinary roots by being then affiliated with the British Veterinary Association. The world’s first Professor of Animal Welfare was appointed 20 years later at the University of Cambridge’s Department of Clinical Veterinary Medicine, and in 1991, the SVE became the International Society for Applied Ethology, in recognition of its geographical spread and its evolution from veterinary medicine. Over the last quarter of a century, there has been further expansion of the field and now animal welfare science is represented in many universities’ veterinary medicine and animal science departments across the world. Animal welfare science has become part of the core curriculum for many veterinary degrees, is a recognized specialty qualification within the veterinary professions of Europe, USA, and Australia and courses in animal welfare science as a stand-alone discipline are offered worldwide at Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctorate degree levels. Within research, there have been similar patterns of expansion and a spread from a heavy focus on farm animal welfare to the welfare of zoo, laboratory, and companion animals and the impacts of humans on wildlife. There continue to be studies that compare the welfare of populations within systems, but there is also more attention given to gaining in-depth knowledge of the welfare of individual animals, knowing that populations are not homogenous and that individuals within the same system may be experiencing quite different welfare states. We not only continue to use “traditional” welfare indicators but also work to develop novel indicators for use in experimental settings or in the field. As our fundamental knowledge base increases, we look for increasing application and we respond to challenges that arise from our own research questions and findings and from societal needs. In this paper, I will focus on a number of the areas that I see represent Grand Challenges within our discipline.
Animal welfare is a relatively new academic discipline but it is fundamental to our approach to animal handling and housing. It should inform our approach to the research ethics review of proposed animal research. This excellent resource will be incredibly helpful for animal researchers and Animal Ethics Committee members.
What I hope to address under this title are the challenges that define how the science of animal welfare may progress over the next few years. I will present my views of the challenges and opportunities that welfare assessment presents and how we adapt and adopt methodologies within animal welfare science to obtain greater understanding, quantification, and qualification of an animal’s welfare state. Historically, animal welfare has been defined under one of three over-arching, and intersecting, themes or approaches. These are biological functioning, “naturalness,” and feelings. The biological functioning theme of animal welfare enables us to focus on discreet measurable parameters, such as health indicators, production measures, measures of physiological functioning, and incidence of behaviors, and combine multiple measures to draw an overall picture of the welfare of the given animal at the time, or prior to, when the measures are taken. The “naturalness” theme focuses on the extent to which the animal is leading, or can lead, a life in which it is free to express its natural behavioral repertoire, with the idea that an animal being able to experience or fulfill its inherent nature, will have good welfare. The third theme concerns the feelings, emotions, or affective states of the animal, with the broad idea that for an animal to be experiencing good welfare, it should not only be devoid of negative emotions, such as anxiety or fear, but should also be experiencing positive emotions, such as pleasure or happiness. As I said above, these themes or approaches do not each exist in isolation and it is commonly acknowledged that there is a degree of overlap between them, and that in attempting to best establish the welfare state of an individual, there should be elements drawn from all three approaches (1).
Marchant-Forde, JN. (2015) The Science of Animal Behavior and Welfare: Challenges, Opportunities, and Global Perspective. Frontiers in Veterinary Science. 2 DOI=10.3389/fvets.2015.00016
Publisher (Open Access): https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fvets.2015.00016/full