Analysing the well-being of farm animals such as pigs is no longer merely a matter of opinion. Researchers at the Institute of Agricultural and Environmental Engineering (IMAG), one of the research institutes of Wageningen University and Research Centre, have succeeded in producing a model allowing them to give a score to the well-being of pigs. The project is part of NWOs Priority Programme dealing with the well-being of animals used in food production. The study was supervised by the Netherlands Technology Foundation (STW) and partly financed by the Dutch Society for the Protection of Animals.
The new model calculates a score for the well-being of the animals by inputting data on their accommodation, such as the space they have and the size of the group, and on the way they are managed. The researchers were trying to find the best way to determine the well-being of the animals by giving a proper scientific score. They based their analysis on the satisfaction or frustration of the animals biological needs, such as for food and water, social contact between individuals, peace and quiet in the shed, freedom of movement and bodily care (for example whether the animals were able to wallow in mud), and the opportunities they had to rummage and root around. The better these provisions and conditions, the higher the score on a well-being scale from 0 to 10.
The researchers then distinguished between various aspects of the housing that influence the well-being of the animals. They looked at such things as the need for the animals to be able to move, isolating the factor space per sty, because a lack of space can lead to increased aggression in pigs, which in nature range over large areas. Using this kind of scientific insight allowed the researchers to assign a weighting to the attributes for well-being in the model.
In order to compare the scientifically determined scores with the experience of animal welfare experts, the team had the experts assign a score
Contact: Michel Philippens
Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research