The Concept of Animal Welfare at the Interface between Producers and Scientists: The Example of Organic Pig Farming
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In organic farming animal welfare is one important aspect included in the internationally agreed organic principles of health, ecology, fairness and care (IFOAM 2006), reflecting expectation of consumers and farmers. The definition of organic animal welfare includes—besides traditional terms of animal welfare—‘regeneration’ and ‘naturalness’. Organic animal welfare assessment needs to reflect this and use complex parameters, include natural behaviour and a systemic view. Furthermore, various parties with seemingly conflicting interests are involved, causing ethical dilemmas, such as the use of nose rings for outdoor sows (impaired animal welfare vs. destruction of humus). Solutions can only be found when foundational concepts are translated and applied to practical situations. On-farm animal welfare assessment and implementation of improvement strategies are increasingly relevant scientific areas. They combine on-farm welfare assessment, identification of key problem areas and connected risk factors. Constant communication between all parties is crucial for success. Animal health and welfare planning is one application of this approach, which was carried out on Austrian organic pig farms as well as organic dairy farms in seven European countries. The projects included welfare assessment, feedback and benchmarking as a tool for communication between farmers, advisors and scientists. Finally goals were set by the farmer and improvement strategies applicable to organic farming were implemented. This included prevention of disease by management strategies instead of routine treatment with pharmaceutical products. It appeared that next to problem structuring, multidisciplinary problem solving demands good communications skills to relate animal welfare science to value reflections.