Agriculture Reference
In-Depth Information
regulation of the food animal industries with
respect to animal welfare. Despite the wide-
spread adoption in 2000 by the trade organiza-
tion of the egg industry, the United Egg Producers
(UEP), of animal welfare standards specifying
(among other things) minimum space allow-
ances in conventional cages (UEP, 2010), pres-
sure continued to mount on the egg industry to
move to alternative production systems (Mench
et al ., 2011). This pressure came mainly in the
form of voter initiatives and regulations at
the state level, promoted in large part by the
Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).
Because of the potential for economic dis-
ruption of the industry as a whole due to incon-
sistent and conflicting state regulation, the UEP
and the HSUS decided in 2011 jointly to seek
federal regulation focusing on laying hen wel-
fare (HSUS, 2011). If passed, this regulation
would codify various management practices
that are already part of the UEP standards, but
in addition outlaw conventional cages. The
alternative systems that will be allowed include
non-cage systems (e.g. aviaries, free-range) and
enriched colonies. The latter system was devel-
oped in Europe in the years following the initial
announcement of the conventional cage ban in
response to concerns about some of the persis-
tent negative hen health aspects of non-cage
systems (Lay et al ., 2011), and with considerable
input from animal welfare scientists (Mench
et al ., 2011). Enriched colonies (also called fur-
nished cages) are larger than conventional
cages in order to provide sufficient space to allow
hens more freedom of movement, and contain
perches, a nesting area and a foraging area to
satisfy hens' needs to perform pecking and
scratching behaviours.
It seems likely that the use of conventional
cages will come under increasing scrutiny and
regulation in developed countries. For example,
the National Animal Welfare Advisory
Committee of New Zealand, a committee estab-
lished under the Animal Welfare Act to provide
advice to the Ministry of Agriculture, recom-
mended that conventional cages be phased out,
which the Ministry has agreed producers will be
required to do by 2012 (
The egg farmers in Manitoba, one of the Canadian
provinces, have decided to discontinue using
conventional cages beginning in 2018 due to
public concerns, to be replaced by furnished
cages (Friesen, 2010). Together, these exam-
ples of legislation and industry-led initiatives
illustrate how public concern about animal
welfare can be the primary driving factor in the
sustainability (or lack thereof) of animal produc-
tion systems.
Challenges and Complexity: Animal
Welfare and Other Aspects
of Sustainability
Given that both animal welfare and sustainability
are multi-faceted concepts, it is unsurprising that
the relationship between the two ideas is complex.
There are examples where improvements to ani-
mal welfare can support or, alternatively, conflict
with other aspects of sustainability. The following
section outlines examples of these situations with
respect to economic and environmental issues.
The examples are limited to evidence-based con-
cerns about animal welfare and focus on animal
interactions with the environment or manage-
ment practices. Other aspects of changing hous-
ing systems or management practices associated
with animal welfare, such as worker satisfaction
and health and food safety are also important, but
are beyond the scope of this chapter. This section
will end with a discussion of how animal welfare
can be incorporated into different sustainability
criteria and evaluation.
Economic sustainability
and animal welfare
There are numerous management practices that
improve both animal welfare and economic sus-
tainability. For example, appropriate animal han-
dling by humans is an important component of
good welfare and plays a role in the productivity,
and thus economic sustainability, of farming sys-
tems. Negative handling practices, such as hitting
and shouting, are associated with lower growth
rates and milk production in pigs and dairy cattle,
respectively (reviewed by Hemsworth, 2003).
Indeed, rough handling can decrease meat qual-
ity at slaughter for both pigs and cattle. For exam-
ple, use of electric prods increases the prevalence
of pale, soft and exudative (PSE) pork meat, as a
result of increased post-mortem acidification
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