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Agricultural Animal Welfare. Does Agriculture improve the welfare of animals…?. …or cause unnecessary suffering?. This is not a question asked by many people of the world. “A chicken in every pot, every Sunday!”. General Concerns (all species). Decreasing Genetic Variability.

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general concerns all species
General Concerns(all species)
  • Decreasing Genetic Variability
Over 95% of Dairy cows in the U.S. are Holsteins, yet there are hundreds of breeds representing a broader range of genetics

19 breeds just on BRITISH watch list

(Rare Breeds Survival Trust)


145 British

breeds of sheep

(22 on Watch list)



In U.S.


Muscovy Duck

Lack of genetic diversity occurs in many species, including chickens, ducks, cattle, and sheep (and is potentially dangerous - recall Irish potato famine).

general concerns all species12
General Concerns (all species)
  • Decreasing Genetic Variability
  • Selection for Single Trait

~ Selection for lean pigs with low fat

content led to pigs with nervous

and high strung temperaments.

~ Chickens with extra large breasts

grew so fast they developed

arthritis and deformed legs.

Grandin & Johnson 2005


Also, breeds are not always suited for their environment: Hereford cattle in hot, humid south, for example.

general concerns all ag species
General Concerns (all Ag species)
  • Decreasing Genetic Variability
  • Selection for Single Traits
  • Dystocia
causes of dystocia

Causes of Dystocia

~ Selection for large offspring in meat breeds

~ Stress

~ Age (less a problem on large operations)

general concerns all ag species19
General Concerns (all Ag species)
  • Decreasing Genetic Variability
  • Selection for  Single Traits
  • Dystocia
  • Transport
general concerns all ag species20
General Concerns (all Ag species)
  • Decreasing Genetic Variability
  • Selection for  Single Traits
  • Dystocia
  • Transport
  • Slaughter

Humane Slaughter Act (USDA enforced)

Meat Institute’s Good Mgt Practices for Animal Handling & Stunning

humane slaughter act

Humane Slaughter Act

~ Passed 1978, enforced by USDA

~ All animals must be dead or stunned before “painful practice”

~ # inspectors decreasing, USDA no longer tracks violations.

other concerns about the implementation of the humane slaughter act
Other concerns about the implementation of the Humane Slaughter Act:

(~ In US, remove hooves from 309/hour, or 5 animals a minute or 3 seconds a hoof).

~ Much slower in Europe (EU days)

more guidelines from industry

More guidelines from industry:

Meat Institute’s Good Management

Practices for Animal Handling and Stunning


Improvements in Welfare

in Processing Plants

A la Temple Grandin and McDonald’s


industry wide changes cattle

Industry Wide Changes (Cattle)

1996 2002 2004

% Killed when first stunned

  • Most “natural” life, though protected from disease & predation (to an extent)
  • Most on pasture whole life, some lambs go to “finishing pens” for last month
sheep welfare concerns
Sheep Welfare Concerns
  • Predation
  • Dystocia
sheep welfare concerns30
Sheep Welfare Concerns
  • Predation
  • Dystocia
  • Stress/ pain of vaccinating, tagging, docking & castration
sheep welfare concerns32
Sheep Welfare Concerns
  • Predation
  • Dystocia
  • Stress/ pain of vaccinating, tagging, docking & castration
  • Shearing?
  • Transport and slaughter
beef cattle
Beef Cattle
  • Most of life on pasture (approx 1.5 years)
  • “Finished” in feedlots, high protein corn diet
  • 35 million breeding cows in U.S.
  • 1.3 billion in world
beef cattle welfare concerns35
Beef Cattle Welfare Concerns
  • Castration
  • Transport & Slaughter
beef cattle welfare concerns36
Beef Cattle Welfare Concerns
  • Castration
  • Transport & Slaughter
  • Time in feed lot: odor, access to shade, food & additives
dairy cattle welfare concerns

Dairy Cattle Welfare Concerns




Veal calves (culled males)

dairy cattle welfare concerns39

Dairy Cattle Welfare Concerns




Veal calves (culled males)

Female calves taken away

Tail Docking

Transport/slaughter when culled

docking increase cleanliness udder health

Docking increase cleanliness,udder health?

Tucker, Fraser and Weary 2001

~ 223 docked

~ 190 undocked

No treatment differences in cleanliness or health

Individuals differences significant


choice experiment re handling

Choice Experiment re Handling

Pajor, Rushen and Passille 2003

~ Choice in Y-maze between:

~ Shouting Handler

~ Cattle Prod

~ Tail twist

~ Pail Feeding

~ No difference between shout vs cattle prod; tail twist not aversive


Poultry Welfare: Egg producers

Battery Cages

banned in EU by 2012

Stocking density = 5 hens/18” by 20”

poultry welfare egg producers44
Poultry Welfare: Egg producers
  • Male chicks
  • Battery Cages
    • Cost of building vs. labor ($$$ in US)

Average consumption per capita = 254 eggs/year (402/yr in 1945)~ 6.45 billion table eggs produced in 2004 ~ 64 companies with over 1 million layers each, 11 companies with over 5 million layers each~ Total of 283 million hens in 2004

behavioral observations welfare

Behavioral Observations & Welfare

University of Guelph, Ian Duncan” 2006

~ How hard laying eggs “work” to

reach a nest box?

~ Asked to push against weighted door to get to nest box.

~ Use same force, for same duration

As if food deprived for 30 hours.

poultry welfare broilers fryers 23 million year
Poultry Welfare: Broilers/ fryers23 million/year
  • Aggression/ debeaking
  • “Free range”
  • Selection for rapid growth - Satiety Center
broiler fryers grow up to 22 wks normal growth in 5 weeks

Broiler/fryers grow up to 22 wks “normal” growth in 5 weeks.

~ Chickens (and turkeys) found to have serious degenerative hip disorders.

~ When administered pain killing meds, turkeys lay down less, walked more, showed more spontaneous activity.

Hocking et al. 1999

consumer choice criteria
Consumer Choice Criteria
  • Cost
  • Taste (fatter is better)
  • Convenience
  • Nutrition/ “wholesomeness”

Not ethics/ welfare…

environmental plusses

Environmental Plusses

Grazing Land is preserved

from development