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

Improving the welfare of livestock

This 2nd issue in the Science & Policy series reviews INRA’s commitment to finding a better balance between livestock welfare, farming practices and societal concern over the treatment of animals.

Updated on 04/12/2018
Published on 04/09/2018

According to ANSES (2018), an animal's welfare is determined by “its mental and physical state, which will be good if the animal's physiological needs, behavioural needs, and expectations are all met. The degree of welfare depends on how the animal views its current conditions”.

Since the 1970s, efforts have been made to reduce animal stress. These changes in livestock practices have come about for several reasons: societal concern over livestock quality of life, 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. It is time to go further. Livestock systems should do more than just limit stress and suffering; they should also create a positive experience for animals. To facilitate this shift, greater scientific knowledge and innovation are needed. INRA has begun a foresight study that brings together researchers across a broad range of relevant disciplines. The study is focused on important questions that have arisen during controversies related to livestock, livestock farming, and the livestock industry. A concern for animal welfare is what makes livestock systems sustainable. Research on animal welfare is a key component of the foresight study, which will be carried out in close collaboration with all concerned stakeholders.

INRA’s research explores three complementary domains:

  • understanding animal sentience to better evaluate animal welfare
  • designing strategies for improving animal welfare: farmer-livestock relationship, livestock practices, precision livestock farming, genetic selection, conditions for livestock during transport and in the slaughterhouse;
  • strengthening practices that take animal welfare into account: INRA is at the heart of a renewed discussion between industry stakeholders and society

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.