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Traditional battery cages for laying hens will soon be banned in the EU but the increased risk of feather pecking (FP) hampers the adoption of alternative housing systems. FP can cause injury and lead to cannibalism and the painful death of target birds. Current management practices (beak trimming, low light) have associated problems. In a joint European project we sought alternative solutions. In our study of associated traits, birds from a line showing low (LFP) rather than high feather pecking (HFP) exhibited greater sociality (motivation to be near companions) and a passive ‘coping’ style. High sociality and passivity were also negatively associated with FP in adults. These findings may guide future breeding programs. Trimming hens’ feathers to mimic the results of FP elicited pecking and some cannibalism, even by birds that had previously shown no FP. Social transmission of gentle but not severe FP occurred when LFP and HFP birds were housed together. Gentle pecking could conceivably lead to severe FP. We then examined chickens’ pecking preferences to guide environmental enrichment strategies. Bunches of string elicited substantially greater interest than other stimuli, including feathers, and white or yellow string was the most attractive. The birds’ manipulation of the string resembled preening. Incorporating silver beads or moving the devices reduced pecking. String sustained lengthy interest, reduced FP in HFP birds, and decreased feather damage in caged layers on a commercial farm. String offers effective, affordable and practicable environmental enrichment. The integrated application of appropriate environmental and genetic strategies is likely to attenuate the expression of FP and its harmful consequences.
This paper describes the development and pilot-testing of a horse welfare assessment protocol (HWAP). The HWAP consists of the collective measurement of numerous factors considered likely to affect a horse's welfare and is thereby designed to provide a holistic score of its welfare status and to identify potential risk factors. The draft protocol contains 47 measures: 15 animal-based, 24 resource-based and eight management-based. It was tested in the autumn at two Swedish riding schools using a total of 37 horses of varying breed, gender and age. Each assessment was repeated after 16-25 days. The results showed that 66% (31/47) of the measures had over 85% repeatability between assessments. Results indicated occurrence of behavioural issues, eg aggression and avoidance, and potential risk factors, such as inadequate management routines and feeding regimes. Using the HWAP, the assessment of up to 22 horses could be carried out in one day. Changes were proposed to the draft protocol which included incorporating an ethogram to assess the human-animal relationship and assessing bit-related injuries. We propose that the protocol might: i) provide a firm basis for the welfare monitoring of horses; ii) identify important potential risk factors; iii) guide welfare improvement and management practices for horse owners and stable managers; and iv) contribute to the development of certification schemes for horse facilities.
There have been important developments in the measurement of farm animal welfare in recent years. Measuring animal welfare is one thing, implementing a farm animal welfare assessment system another. The implementation of such a system occurs in an environment that is influenced by economic, political, technological and socio-cultural factors which interact with each other. This creates enormous complexity, generates a huge number of different potential ‘futures’, and makes the eventual impact that the system will have on the welfare of farm animals uncertain. This article draws upon strategic management literature to apply scenario analysis as a technique to help understand the variance of the uncertainty associated with the implementation of an animal welfare assessment scheme. Specifically, it develops two extreme scenarios based on a theoretical European-wide implementation: one scenario in which all uncertain factors influence the implementation of the assessment system in a negative way, and one scenario in which all these factors have positive impacts. These scenarios provide insight into the variance of possible futures in which the system may have to function. Although consumers are an important stakeholder group, their role in creating uncertainty for the system may be overestimated; it is apparent that the roles of companies, brands and certification organisations deserve significant attention, as well as any relevant institutional structure.
This study was designed to determine whether feedback from welfare assessments, using the Horse Welfare Assessment Protocol, affected actual horse welfare in 21 stables. After the first assessment, stable managers in the high feedback (HF; n = 10 stables) group were supplied with extensive information and support regarding the welfare measures and relevance of the results. The low feedback (LF; n = 11 stables) group only received the results without additional information. Upon re-assessment, six months later, no significant changes were seen in the stable overall (SO) score in either group. Significant changes occurred in individual measures; in the HF group more fresh-air inlets were open but water drinker function and ocular discharge deteriorated. In the LF group, the feeding troughs were cleaner but mane and tail condition deteriorated. Both groups had cleaner water troughs and less equipment chafing but the sum of relative air humidity (RH) and temperature (T) deteriorated. Significant decreases occurred in the stable welfare issues (SWI) score; the HF group decreased from 93.3 to 72.0 and the LF group from 113.3 to 91.3. There were also nonsignificant changes; in the HF group, 71 measures and five stables improved while 63 measures and five stables (50%) deteriorated. In the LF group, 65 measures and seven stables improved while 62 measures and four stables deteriorated. The observed improvements in both groups suggest that assessment alone (with no detailed feedback) might raise awareness but we cannot yet conclude whether or not the type of feedback affects overall horse welfare.
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