Societal views surrounding animal well-being and humane treatment of all animals, including those n agriculture, have risen to a higher level. In response, the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine has formed a new division, the International Animal Welfare Training Institute, to examine and address animal-welfare issues in many species.

University faculty, practicing veterinarians and beef and dairy industry members have met to develop new approaches and examine practices that will benefit the welfare of food animals.

Meeting participants shared ideas that take into account the animal welfare concerns of consumers and farmers alike, including science-based welfare practices.

Jim Reynolds, DVM, a faculty member based at the Veterinary Medicine Teaching and Research Center, Tulare, and chairman of the American Veterinary Medical Association's Animal Welfare Committee, suggested several ways for producers to seek help from their veterinarians to conduct assessments and implement sound welfare practices. He emphasized, "Owners' values and attitudes influence welfare more than the size of a farm.

Matt Byrne, Executive Director of the California Cattlemen's Association, stated that the 2008 Hallmark slaughterhouse video of disabled cattle became the catalyst for different types of producers to address welfare issues as a group. "Recognizing that consumers do not always see the distinction among different kinds of cows, we need to address the issues, good and bad. Selling or transporting non ambulatory cattle and those at risk of going down is unacceptable," he said.

Participants discussed the need for more science-based information to determine the most effective way to improve livestock's welfare.They outlined several existing programs and potential research projects:

  • Measuring animal stress and pain
  • Duration of animal transport and transport conditions
  • Optimal training methods for producers and animal handlers
  • Bridging gaps in implementing welfare strategies
  • On-farm assessments and welfare audits
  • How to provide the most humane end of life for agricultural
    animals, including understanding appropriate techniques and training
    in American Veterinary Medical Association approved methods\
  • Costs of welfare practices
  • Roles of producers, animal-health technicians and employees
  • Demonstrating and communicating welfare successes
  • Tapping outreach opportunities--for example, at auction sites 

Professor John Madigan, DVM, and Tracey Stevens-Martin are leading the school's newest initiative, the International Animal Welfare Training Institute. Carolyn Stull, Veterinary Medicine Extension, heads the livestock segment of animal-welfare improvements. The group is identifying and seeking solutions for issues of animal welfare in many species, including livestock, horses, companion species and service animals. The faculty are identifying animal-welfare concerns, research opportunities and needs. They seek support from the public to implement science-based improvements. The institute also serves to train and educate students, community members and government representatives in disaster planning and emergency response for animals.

For more information about farm animal welfare, click here.

Source: University of California-Davis