Finally there is the nature-based school of animal welfare,
which simply says that animals are content and comfortable
when they are allowed to express their natural instincts and
live in natural environments, and discontent, stressed, and
uncomfortable when they cannot. Every dog owner knows
the most important part of a walk is when the dog smells the
urine and feces of other dogs. It doesn't accomplish anything
practical for the dog, but is still an essential part of a happy
dog's life. They also like to play tug-of-war, chase squirrels,
and protect their master from the UPS man, all because these
were once essential behaviors of their wild ancestors.
Like dogs, livestock still desire to engage in certain natural
behaviors even if they have no tangible benefit. Chickens like
to scratch in the sand even if their feed trough is full, and they
like to bathe in dust even if there are no parasites. Hogs abso-
lutely love to dig, explore, and wallow in the mud. Cows prefer
shade during hot summers and to live in herds.
Farmers acknowledge the importance of these natural
behaviors and, when it is economically feasible, are happy to
provide outlets for all of them. For example, instead of a barren
cage, laying hens can be housed in “enriched” colony cages,
which contain perches, sand for scratching and/or dust bath-
ing, and private nest boxes when the consumers are willing
to pay a premium to cover the additional cost of production.
Some farmers allow their hogs outdoor access or, if indoors,
sawdust for them to excavate. Farmers rarely house adult cows
individually, allowing them to live in herds, and when avail-
able, to have access to shade and pasture.
What Is the Animal Welfare Controversy?
Even the most loving dog owners cannot provide their pet
constant bliss. Sometimes there are trade-offs between two
things that make a dog happy. Immediately before an owner
leaves for work, the dog begs to play in the fenced-in back-
yard, but outside it would have to stay in the cold all day. Thus,
denying the dog the ability to play for a few minutes outside