How best to improve farm animal welfare? Four main approaches viewed from an economic perspective

Looking at the issues from an economic perspective, we examine four approaches to the improvement of farm animal welfare: legislative initiatives, and initiatives driven by producers, consumer choice (labelling), and food companies (Corporate Social Responsibility; CSR). We take as our starting point the assumption that to obtain the best possible improvements in animal welfare, a […]

Life in a variable world: Behaviour, welfare and environmental design

Many or most stimuli in the environment are variable. Sometimes animals will categorize this variation, and we tend to underestimate the complexity of the mechanisms involved. Probably more often, response to variable stimuli is itself variable. Examples are explored in four areas, including the possibility that stimuli may occur in supernormal form: nest-site selection by […]

Breeding for behavioural change in farm animals: practical, economic and ethical considerations

In farm animal breeding, behavioural traits are rarely included in selection programmes despite their potential to improve animal production and welfare. Breeding goals have been broadened beyond production traits in most farm animal species to include health and functional traits, and opportunities exist to increase the inclusion of behaviour in breeding indices. On a technical […]

Science is not enough: How do we increase implementation?

Science has been invaluable for increasing understanding of animal welfare and as a result we know of many ways in which animal treatment and housing can be improved. However, implementation is slow because of political and economic considerations. This is particularly clear for farm animals. This raises the question of what else is needed, besides […]

Applying scientific advances to the welfare of farm animals: why is it getting more difficult?

Despite interest and willingness to apply advances in animal welfare science, it is becoming increasingly difficult to do so. This paper addresses three main areas. The first deals with economic consequences and, while recognising the cost of implementing change, highlights the importance of hidden costs in animal disease. It argues that when these costs are […]

How can economists help to improve animal welfare?

To-date, the dominant approach to improving farm animal welfare has consisted of a combination of voluntary improvements undertaken by farmers and the tightening of legal requirements. However, history suggests that there is a limit to the improvements capable of being secured by this approach. In this paper, it is argued that economic principles can and […]

Economic evaluation of high welfare indoor farrowing systems for pigs

New livestock housing systems designed to improve animal welfare will only see large-scale commercial adoption if they improve profitability, or are at least cost neutral to the farm business. Economic evaluation of new system developments is therefore essential to determine their effect on cost of production and hence the extent of any market premium necessary […]

Foot disorders in dairy cattle: Impact on cow and dairy farmer

This paper considers the economic consequences and the welfare impact of foot disorders in dairy cattle and the association between them, taking into account clinical and subclinical foot disorders. In dairy farming with cubicle housing and concrete floors, foot disorders are a major welfare problem with serious economic consequences. On average, foot disorders cost €53 […]

Interactions between profit and welfare on extensive sheep farms

Extensive sheep farming systems make an important contribution to socio-economic well-being and the ‘ecosystem services’ that flow from large areas of the UK and elsewhere. They are therefore subject to much policy intervention. However, the animal welfare implications of such interventions and their economic drivers are rarely considered. Under Defra project AW1024 (a further study […]

A method for the economic valuation of animal welfare benefits using a single welfare score

Unless the benefits to society of measures to protect and improve the welfare of animals are made transparent by means of their valuation they are likely to go unrecognised and cannot easily be weighed against the costs of such measures as required, for example, by policy-makers. A simple single measure scoring system, based on the […]