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Science & Policy n°2: Improving the welfare of farm animals. © INRA

Improving the welfare of farm animals

This 2nd issue in the Science & Policy series reviews INRA’s commitment to developing animal husbandry systems reconciling society's concerns, farmers' practices and the quality of life of animals.

Updated on 01/29/2019
Published on 04/09/2018

The welfare of an animal is the positive mental and physical state related to the satisfaction of its physiological and behavioural needs, as well as its expectations. This state varies according to the perception of the situation by the animal (French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety ANSES, 2018)

Since the 1970s, INRA has developed research for improving practices aiming at reducing animal stress. These improved practices are felt necessary for several reasons: society’s concern over the quality of life of farm animals, including the conditions under which animals are transported and slaughtered; increased scientific understanding of animal suffering; and the establishment of European laws on animal welfare. INRA feels now necessary to go further. Livestock systems should do more than just decrease stress and suffering; they should also allow positive experiences for the animals. To facilitate this paradigm shift, we need greater scientific understanding and innovation. Therefore, INRA is launching a scoping study to bring together researchers from a broad range of relevant disciplines aiming at developing innovative research in the area. The study focuses on important questions arising from controversies related to farm animals themselves, farming practices, and the livestock industry. Animal welfare is central to what makes livestock systems sustainable, therefore research on animal welfare is a key component of the scoping study, which is being carried out in close collaboration with all concerned stakeholders.

INRA's research explores three complementary domains:

  • assessing animal sentience and consciousness for improving animal welfare
  • designing strategies for improving the welfare of farm animals: relationship between farmers and their animals, livestock practices, precision livestock farming, genetic selection, conditions for animals during transport and in the slaughterhouse
  • increasing awareness of animal welfare: INRA is at the heart of a renewed dialogue between industry stakeholders and society

Improving the welfare of farm animals

National Reference Centre for Animal Welfare

The National Reference Centre for Animal Welfare (CNR BEA) was thus created in 2017, as part of the Ministry of Agriculture's National Strategy for Animal Welfare. Its goal is to bring together the different stakeholders who have an interest in animal welfare. More specifically, the objectives are to help stakeholders improve their approaches to enhancing animal welfare; diffuse related knowledge and innovations; and encourage exchanges among all interested parties. The reins of the centre were given to INRA.