Ethical aspects on meat and milk production or why should the animal pay our cheep food with their welfare?


Kristina Forslund

 VMD, PhD, associated professor at the department of Clinical Sciences at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), Uppsala, Sweden

 Part of the article was first published as third chapter in the teaching book;   Food Science: Production, Processing and Composition .from  Open universiteit, De Montfort University and SLU  in a SOCRATES funded project supported by European Association of Distance Teaching Universities, Uppsala, 1997.


This article tries to give a definition of Prevention of cruelty to animals (in Swedish Djurskydd) in English often called Animal Welfare. There are no differences in what the individual animal feel if it is mistreated in northern or southern Europe or anywhere in the world but the laws that prevent the animals from suffering are different. Animals do have to fulfil some basic physiological needs to be comfortable. This article tries to explain the reasons for the mistreatment of the animals we use for milk, egg and meat-production. It gives also the background of how it is possible to change the circumstances for the animals by using the Swedish animal welfare debate as an example. So called man made diseases will briefly be discussed and how the word market price of grain can influence the health of, for example, cattle.


In the middle of the twentieth century, mankind thought that the only way to make things cheaper was to centralise and to build big units. So we did with the animals used for food. We ignored that pigs, cattle, chickens were living, feeling, biological creatures with specific needs just like dogs, cats, horses, etc., animals that we some times treat just like human beings.

 Human being is a species among millions of other species and is definitely not unique in keeping domestic animals. Some ants for example keep leaf-louse in order to "milk" them to get their sweat excretions. They are said to live in symbiosis. Man and domestic animals are just like the ant and the louse, we are living in symbiosis or at least we once were. “Cruelty” to animals was before the middle of the 2000th century a problem for a few animals and often correlated with some trouble that the farmer had, for example sickness, poverty etc.. Cruelty to animals was not associated with general husbandry. Most animals were treated properly so they would stay healthy, with no abnormal behaviours and they remained productive producing milk, eggs, meat etc.. If the animals were chosen us because we gave them food and protection or if we took the animals as newborn individuals and forced them to stay with us is a never ending discussion.

 When industrialisation occurred and every problem appeared to be solved with technology it was the animals who had to pay the price for cheaper food production by the suffering from different man made diseases and abnormal behaviour. The symbiosis had become an exploitation of domestic animals.

 "Animal husbandry" turns into "animal production".

Humans learned early in their history not to eat meat from sick animals. This created at that time an incentive for ensuring environments in which animals would remain healthy. With the spread of antibiotics and other medicines in the middle of the 20th century, it was no longer essential for farmers to be concerned with providing naturally healthy environments to the same degree as previously.

 With the use of modern veterinary medicines, it became possible to cram hens, pigs and cattle into areas which, from the point of view of their evolved behaviour patterns, are inadequate. Nature requires, for example, that if a sow is to remain healthy and properly take care of its young, it must be able to live and move about freely. Our ancestors understood this. From the middle of this century, we try to get around nature by giving the sow various medicines at parturition and to its young when they are weaned.

 Before the spread of antibiotics into the world market, it was not possible to crowd large numbers of young ruminants from different locations into the same space. This is because they are equipped only with specific antibodies against the infectious diseases associated with their mothers' barns. When thrown together they tended to experience high mortality because of infection from all different stables.

 These modern animal factories created a lot of stress in the animals. Ruth Harrison published the book "Animal Machines" in 1964 with a foreword by Rachel Carson in which Carson writes: "The modern world worships the gods of speed and quantity, and of the quick and easy profit, and out of this idolatry monstrous evils have arisen". She ends the foreword with: _"Although Ruth Harrison's book describes in detail only the conditions prevailing in Great Britain, it deserves to be widely read also in those European countries where these methods are practised, and in the United States where some of them arose. Wherever it is read it will certainly provoke feelings of dismay, revulsion and outrage. I hope it will spark a consumers´ revolt of such proportions that this vast new agricultural industry will be forced to mend its ways."

 In Sweden the journalist and author Barbro Soller wrote the book "Animal Factory" (Djurfabriken) dealing with the conditions in Sweden which were similar to those in Great Britain. At that time people involved in the food industry, veterinarians, animal scientists etc. denied the facts put forward in the books by these and others authors and told the public that the animals were not suffering and that this industrial animal production was the only way of producing cheap food. Scientist at that time even denied that animals could suffer from stress, pain, anxiety, agony etc. Rachel Carson and Barbro Soller and other authors, were left without any support from veterinarians and other scientists involved in the farm business and they were very lonely in protesting against this cruelty against animals.

 Today we are experiencing animal production under the shelter of an umbrella of antibiotics, used both as growth promoters in the fodder and as preventive medical. However we are beginning to realise that the use of antibiotics has created strains of bacteria that are resistant to these drugs. There are medical reasons for the humans not to use antibiotics for the purpose of making animals grow faster or to create environments so bad that the animals need antibiotics to be able to stay "healthy". We are also beginning to realise the problems associated with the environment around big animal factories. It appears that, when the problems with "animal productions" are a threat to us as human beings, we are suddenly prepared to change the conditions for animals production.

 Production- or manmade and infectious diseases.

When many animals of one species are put together in a small area the risk for infections increases and also the need of antibiotics. The risk for infections are increased with the number of animals put together. The formula y=n(n-1):2 illustrates this (y= contacts, n= the number of animals). The greater the number of contacts, the greater the risk of cross infection.

 Also the trading of live animals increases the potential transfer of infectious diseases in Europe. This could be avoided if we started to transport the carcasses in "cooling cars?" instead of the living animals. A dead body inspected by veterinarians means a smaller risk of scattering animal infections between countries. Dead animals can not feel any pain or anxiety. Thus transporting dead animals would be an improvement of animal welfare as well as a good preventive operation against infectious diseases.

 Calves derive all their protection against infectious diseases through the colostrums from its mother. The colostrums contain only the antibodies that the cow has produced against the infections in "her barn". When farmers sell calves to veal producers, the calves may get the infections from other calves´ stables because they have only protection against the infections in their own mothers´ environment. To produce veal antibiotics have to be used. It is also very unnatural for all mammals not to be able to suckle in early life.

 Problems around parturition

Problems arrive in cattle around parturition and may, in many ways, be regarded as man-made diseases. Let us examine some examples:

Some of the ruminants used for production of meat in Europe are bred in such a way that they most of the time deliver the calves by caesarean section. Those breeds which mostly need caesarean section to deliver a calf, are for example forbidden in Sweden according to the animal protection act. This because it is impossible for the cows to give birth in a natural way.

Parturient paresis or milk fever in the cow around parturition is another disease which in some ways is man made. It is the use of too much grain in relation to roughage in the fodder that causes a great risk for milk fever. The low world market price of grain together with the greater cost of processing roughage makes it more profitable for the milk producer to use grain rather than use roughage which would be better for cows. Roughage with high energy and protein content would be the better alternative for cows instead of supplying too much grain.

Problems with the feet, like laminitis and foot rot, are often caused by incorrect fodder regimes or improper way of having the animals. If cows get too much grain it might have problem with diarrhoea which causes problem with the feet, because they will stay wet all the time. Foot problems are an important disease from an animal welfare perspective but may be not so important from the perspective of meat or milk quality.

 Different aspects of good food qualities

When scientists refer to "good food" or "safe food" they usually mean that the food comes from healthy animals and is uncontaminated by toxic substances. Such toxins can occur in food through the use of agricultural chemicals, or through natural processes involving bacteria. Also different parasites can cause problems with the food.

 There are, however, important considerations in the definition of good food that are difficult to measure in any scientific sense. For a Muslim or a Jew, for example, pork is definitely not good food. This has nothing to do with health considerations - rather, with fundamental beliefs and cultural values.

 Residents of the industrialised world are becoming increasingly concerned about what they eat. Most of them are anxious not to eat anything that might injure them in the short, or longer term.

However, there is also a small but growing movement toward avoidance of meat-eating, on the grounds of perceived maltreatment of domestic animals or believes in animal rights. Modern "animal factories" products raise an instinctive negative reaction for many people. They sense that there is something very wrong with such operations. Some become vegetarians, because they think that is the only way to protest against our abuse of animals. Some go so far as attempting to liberate animals from such "factories" with violence.

 Different cultures give different "rights" to domestic animals

Domestic animals live within the terms directed by man. Different cultures have different opinions about how to treat domestic animals. Some cultural traditions look upon (consider) animals as "things" with no feelings or ability to think or experience fear, anxiety, happiness etc. Other cultures, on the other hand, tell us that all living creatures are sacred and will not allow them to be killed.

 Some cultures give animals a value of their own, with abilities to feel pain, anxiety, joy, happiness etc. but still retaining the right to kill them and use them. Some cultures allow individuals to cause animals severe suffering and pain just for the fun of it. Bull-fighting is an example of not respecting the animal’s ability to feel pain and stress. In contrast to this is the Holy cow in India. In these traditions, man may pay no respect for the suffering in the individual animal when it gets hurt or sick. It is the religion or tradition that rules how animals are treated not the animals own needs of not being hurt or stressed.

 Some people talk about “animal rights” and mean that we have no right to use or abuse animals in any way. It is however clear that the human digestive system was designed to process a certain proportion of protein, vitamins, fat etc. that could not be found in vegetables in countries with long winters but in animal products. In the northern countries the winter is long and the most important resource for protein, vitamins and fat were the animals’ milk, meat and egg. It was the only possible way to survive the winter before the huge enlargement of communications. The natural protein, vitamin and fat sources in the cold climate zones are the domestic animals and so we have to keep animals from which we can get meet, milk, eggs etc.

 In Sweden the Prevention of cruelty to animal act forbids individuals to cause animals any pain unless it is done for some important reason for example in research. In these circumstances the researcher has to apply to an ethical committee and they will say "yes" or "no" to the experiments with the animals. But if a domestic or captured animal in Sweden is suffering from a disease or trauma a veterinarian has to be contacted or the animal has to be killed in order to release its pain.

 If you look at it from the animal's point of view it does not matter where, for example, a chicken gets it wings broken, be it in a marked place in Spain or on a farm in Sweden. However, in Spain the tradition was to break the wings of the chickens to keep them in the market place. It is according to their tradition to do this. If the same thing was done in Finland or Sweden you would probably be prosecuted as these countries among others has an act of prevention of cruelty to animals or as it often is named an animal welfare act. Still the chicken feels the same pain all over the world from the fracture of the wing bone! It really hurts when somebody breaks your bones!

 Changing public opinion by using words

Changing public opinion: Example Sweden, Astrid Lindgren lets the animals use her voice and words. The "words" are power and truth. A word can stand against another word, but the one without "the words" is without power in a society run by spoken or written laws or in which the written or spoken word is used in papers or other media. It is the "word" which through Holy Scriptures has created different religions with different relationships between man and man and between man and animal.

 Our society is regulated in details by "words" in law books. It is the "WORD" that counts. Small children, old people who lost their ability to speak and animals will never be able to speak for themselves. They have to trust people/Man to stand up for them and speak.

 In the mid-1980s, the breeding of pigs in Sweden had resulted in a hog that had very much meat compared to other hogs. The problem with this specific hog breed was that if it became very stressed in the slaughtering process and the meat became pale, soft and exudative (PSE). The researchers realised that the gene causing the PSE was related to the "Halothan gene" so they started to breed animals without this gene, thus the pigs didn't get the PSE when they were stressed at the slaughterhouses. The problem was, however for the pigs, that the researchers didn't take away the anxiety in the pig as they did not change the slaughter routines. You can look upon it as they took away the last possibility for the pig to protect itself from fear and stress in the abattoir, the profitability.

 The experts, veterinarian and animal scientists agreed with the producers and the researchers that the most important thing was to produce cheap food. Very few were thinking of the welfare of animal. At that time a rather intense public debate over industrialised animal production began in Sweden. In September, 1985, Astrid Lindgren, the much-admired author of children's books, started an intensive debate in one of the biggest newspaper in Sweden, "Expressen". She had been informed by me in a letter where I told her about my experiences from my daily work as a veterinary surgeon. Astrid Lindgren informed "the man in the street" by transferring my stories to different fairy-tales of how the meat, milk and eggs we bought in the store were produced. She wrote about all of the situations an animal could be in, from birth to the slaughter. She also described how people working in the business had forgotten that it was living creatures they were working with and not "things". Astrid Lindgren and I never attacked farmers, but attacked the "system" and the government that had forced the farmers to treat their animals in such a bad way just because the consumers wanted cheap meat.

 She encouraged people through the article in the papers not to buy any meat from the "tortured animals". We pointed out the absurdity, for example, of not allowing ruminants to be ruminants just because there happened to be a grain surplus that made it economically feasible to feed cows as though they were pigs. She wrote about how our pastures were disappearing because no animals were grazing. Unnecessarily cruel slaughtering methods have been another prominent issue.

When Astrid Lindgren used the biggest newspaper in Sweden to boycott Swedish meat the farmers became frightened, because she used the only language that the producers appeared to understand - MONEY. They would lose money if the people did not want to buy their meat.

 The campaign resulted in a new animal rights law, which was enacted in 1988 and among many other things stipulate:

Article 4: "Animals which are bred and kept for the production of food, wool, skin or furs shall be housed and treated in a good animal environment and in such a way that their health is furthered and a natural behaviour is possible."

Of course, animals in Sweden (and other countries with an act of prevention of cruelty to animals) do not enjoy unlimited opportunity to express their natural behaviours. But greater consideration is now given to their needs, and attempts are being made to adapt technology to the animals rather than vice versa. The new animal rights law prohibits, for example, the physical restraint of sows except under very exceptional circumstances and the farmers are not allowed to keep pigs in pens without straw and to burn away the horn of the calf without any analgesia. Egg-laying hens may not be kept in small cages after 1999. All female grown up ruminants, mainly dairy-cows are to be allowed out to graze during the summer.

Professor Bernard Rollin, who is Professor of Philosophy, Professor of Physiology and Biophysics, and Director of Bioethical Planning at Colorado State University, writes in his book "Farm Animal Welfare": "In the end, animals cannot speak or advocate for themselves. Although that should inspire in us a sense of urgency about achieving progress regarding their well-being, the situation is often quite the opposite. In fact, we often soar to new heights of absurdity when we deal with animal issues, because animals, unlike disenfranchised human groups, cannot call us to account."

Ethics and animal welfare.

Many Natural Scientists often refer to "ethics" when they talk about animal welfare. They do not want to fully admit the physiological facts that animal do feel pain, stress, anxiety, discomfort when they are sick, get hurt etc. Fifty years ago scientist claimed that the pain we felt as human beings was a "real" pain registered by our brains, but the pain seen in animals and even small children was simply looked upon as involuntary movements.

Ethics, the word comes from the Grecian "ethos" meaning custom, or habit. It is the part of Philosophy which is trying to answer; "What is good?", "What is right?" and "What is duty?". This is a science of its own and has really nothing to do directly with the welfare of the individual animal. The animal has some specific physiological needs to be fulfilled if it should feel well-being. But when it comes to the laws, the animal protection acts, about what we are allowed to do to animals or not then we use ethics. Making the laws we also put our owns needs for using the animal. We have to weigh our needs against the animals needs, there the ethics comes in.

"Animal welfare" is defined differently depending on who is defining it.

Donald Broom, the ethologist in Cambridge defines welfare as adaptation to or coping with the environment. With knowledge about the physiology of animals, pathology, how different pharmacological substances interfere with animals and how different diseases cause suffering, it could be claimed that "animal welfare" should be defined from the well-being of the animal itself.

Thus could "mean" that, when an animal is living under such condition that it does not get stressed, feel any pain, do not get sick, then the animal is having "welfare". This means that an animal scientist and a veterinarian have to admit that it does hurt when a pig gets castrated, or an electric prod is used , or when an animal is suffering from pneumonia or, is deliberately starved of an essential nutrient needs as the situation found when veal calves are starved of iron. Whether or not a human being is allowed to cause animals some harm, depends on the animal protection laws of the country, not on the actual pain we are causing the animals. Thus “prevention of cruelty to animals” (some times called animal welfare) is the point of intersection between the well-being of the individual animal and the limitation the prevention of cruelty to animal act of the country. In some ways this reflects the boundary between the economic demands of human society, the emotional/ethical feelings of humans and the physiological and emotional demands of the animals.

To improve the welfare of the animals we have to use the knowledge about what is good for the animal by using the results from animal welfare and veterinary medicine research AND make the public opinion aware that animals are living and feeling creatures.

 Killing animals

Animals cannot and will never be able to speak or write words though they can communicate in presents with sounds and signs. This means that they are unable to transfer abstract thoughts and things that happened in the past or what might happen in the future to relatives or friends of their own species. This might imply that the animals are not aware of death and that they do not have any anxiety from the thoughts of their own death. Just like a very young child the animals do not understand what death is. It is too abstract. Of course they may get frightened of a dead member of their own species, but without a language with abstractions they can not talk or even imagine their own death.

 When working with slaughter animals it feels important to know if they are aware of the fact they are going to die. The assumption that the slaughter animals are not aware of the killing at a abattoir is shared by Temple Grandin, animal scientist who wrote:

"People often ask me if animals are afraid of blood. Again it's the small distractions that scare the animals more than blood. Blood or urine from relatively calm cattle appears to have no effect, but blood from cattle that have become very frightened may contain a "smell of fear" substance.

If the cattle remain relatively calm they will voluntarily walk into a chute with blood on it. But if an animal becomes severely stressed for over five minutes the next animal will often refuse to enter."

( From the book "Thinking in pictures", 1995).

 The facts, that animal do feel fear and anxiety when treated brutally but probably do not have any fear of death, means from the animal welfare point of view, that we can slaughter them under condition that will not upset them. Whether or not it is "ethical" to kill animals or not depends on which ethical "school" you belong to.

 The Animal "languages" and differences between species.

Animals have signs and sounds for different things. How many different signs and sounds depend on which species we are talking about. Animals seem, just like a little wordless child, to express joy, happiness, anxiety, fear, pain etc.

 People working in Natural Sciences often use animal models as they believe it is possible to compare the physiology of man and animals. That is why scientists use animals in pharmacological, toxicological and physiological research.

 However science has long denied that animals really do feel pain, anxiety etc., but what common sense never doubted is now regarded as a fact. In the book "The unheeded cry" from 1990, Bernard E. Rollin traces the development of changing attitudes towards animals and shows how growing social concern about the way in which we treat them is forcing science to turn back to common-sense view.

 Professor David H Ingvar, professor, neuro-physician in Lund, Sweden, has on different occasion explained that animals, at least mammals close to us in development, have in their nervous system all essential mechanisms for registration of pain. Reaction of pain is also very similar between animals and human.

 It is interesting, that before 1985, there were virtually no scientific papers on animal analgesia or animal pain, though animals were used as "pain models" to test analgesics. "Stress" was explicated purely physiologically, in terms of activation of the pituitary adrenal axis and release of catecholamines (stress hormones). Alternatively, stress during longer periods when the animal was

unable to coup with its environment was described as "wind-sucking", "cribbing", "pacing", "bar-biting", "weaving", etc., all familiar behaviour patterns to veterinarians. Before 1985 no animal is described as a “living and feeling creature” but in the first article by Astrid Lindgren we are using this expression and thereafter it is accepted!

From the university of agricultural sciences (SLU) in Uppsala Sweden there were no articles concerning animal welfare before 1985 but after 1988 traditional physiological, pharmacological and research concerning production diseases are presented as “animal welfare” research.

In isolated meetings between man to animal it is the biological laws that counts. The human beings can through their intellectual capacity, act like the leaders of the herds, even in front of animals much bigger and stronger than themselves. An alert animal keeper is perceptive and has the ability to read sign language in animals. Animals and man are communicating without the spoken word but with help from signs and sounds. Our domestic animals can be taught this when they are young through their early contact with man.

 One of the problems in communication with animals is that different species have different "language" and different needs to feel comfortable with their life. Mankind has established a right to control the animals and this right we, most likely, will never give up. This does not mean that we have the right to cause them suffering or illness. To be able to avoid this we must have knowledge about their different needs and behaviours. It is not possible to turn animals into human beings like in the Disney cartoons, because what is good for us might not be good for others, be they dogs, hogs or canaries.

 Our domestic species are different in many ways. Ethologists all over the world are trying to understand animal behaviour in a scientific way, using statistics and so on. However it can be complicated to make models in which we think that an animal will behave in a particular way. We still do not know how animals will cope with particular situations. We do not know if smell or sight or hearing is the most important experience for that specific animal species. The cranial nerve of olfactory in human is just some percentage of the nerve in for example a cow, which might be important to know when constructing behaviour models.

 Abnormal behaviour in farm animals does not lend itself easily to study in the indoor laboratory. Professor J.L.Albright has listed behavioural problems in farm animal in an article published at the 78th Annual Veterinary Conference at Purdue University, September 21, 1990, and in which he states "an understanding of behaviour, normal and abnormal, and the limits of adaptability of behaviour in different species, age group and individuals is the only way to achieve optimal production and animal well-being". 

Different species have different ability to communicate with man and persons have different ability to understand animals. It is important to know that different animals have different "languages". What you can do to one species might be impossible to do to another. It is also important to know how different species behave when they get hurt or feel pain or anxiety. For example a sheep will squeak its teeth and do nothing more even if you really hurt it. If you do the same thing to a cat for example, it will scream out its anger and probably bite you hard. That is why it is easy for us to hurt for example lamb without really knowing that we are causing them great pain.

 Why do we use the species we do for food and not others?

It is an interesting question why we do have cattle, sheep, horses, chickens, hogs, dogs etc. instead of elks, deer, pheasants, badgers, foxes and so on. Did we choose the animals or did they choose us? Did they find out that it was convenient to walk along with man and eat what man provided? Or did we find out that we could breed some of the animals that we had trapped for food? Did we realise that it was easier to breed the animals instead of hunting them down? If we look at the species we have as farm animals, it is obvious that they all live in herds. Were these animals easier to tame, because we could act as a leader for the herd? Or do we have the animals which were the only ones to survive and multiply themselves in the conditions we could give them?

These questions have yet not been fully answered. We do know, however, that our domestic animals stay with us of their own free will (when they have the opportunity to choose) if we treat them well and give them food and good care.

Domestic animals were not fenced until the garden needed protection from gracing or the road became to dangerous because of all the cars or the train etc etc. A good Shepard is always followed by his herd.

 What are the terms for farm animals to have some welfare?

The animals we use for meat, milk, eggs etc. are born only to serve us as food producers. Nevertheless the pig is as intelligent as a dog, the cow certainly likes the green grass just as much as our horses. However the only thing that appears to count when it comes to farm animals is how to make money on them.

 Research in "farm animal welfare" are mostly research in traditional physiological, ethological or pharmacological areas, measuring different markers of stress, pain etc. or conducting ethological studies. One of the main reason for doing these studies is to find out how to treat the animals so they will produce the most and be as efficient as possibly. For this, we have to know how animals react to different parameters and to figure out how much money we will make in changing these parameters for the animals.

 Animal welfare research is not enough if the purpose for research is to give a better benefit for us  and not to give the animals a better life. We have to find out the welfare for the different species and then strive to give the animals better conditions even if that will rise the cost in food production.

 The only way to do that is to make people aware of the animals need and not to deny the animals ability to experience pain, anxiety, fear etc. All traditional physiological and pharmacological research already done can be interpreted from the animals point of view and the results can be used to improve the conditions for animals if we as human beings can be prepared to afford to give animals better conditions.

 In Sweden and in few other countries, the prevention of cruelty to animal act has provided the animals with a value of their own. This means that they are not looked upon as mere things but living and feeling creatures.

 In Sweden, we have learnt, the law says, that people who own or take care of an animal are responsible for this animal to have a decent life. Animal owners have to find out what the basic needs of the animal are and to implement condition to ensure that the amounts are well catered for.

In USA, Temple Grandin from the University of Colorado, has been working with how to handle cattle and hogs in meat plants and slaughterhouses in a way that both animals and producer have a benefit of. The principle behind her designs for the handling systems is to use the animal's natural behaviour patterns to encourage them to move willingly through the system. Her book "Thinking in pictures" chapter 8 "A Cow´s Eye View" deals with how to handle cattle in a gentle way without using prods and causing the animals any anxiety and pain. One third of the cattle and hogs in the United States are handled in facilities she has designed. However Temple Grandin points out the importance of how people handle these well-designed facilities. Let us quote her from her book:

"Plants that have high standard of animal welfare enforce strict codes of conduct. One manager built his office so that he could see the stockyards and the cattle ramp that led into the plant. If he saw employees hitting or whipping the cattle, he called the foreman. Employees who had thousands of animals often become careless and hard. The people who actually kill the animals should be rotated, and complete automation of the actual killing procedure is good for employee well-being."

 These matters are also under discussion in Europe. In the Common Market, regulations for animal well-being at farms, transports and abattoirs are discussed. However if a law is not in accordance with the minds of citizens, the law will not be followed. Most countries have no possibility to closely superintendent the animal protection laws. In these condition, if the people do not support the law, then the law will not be obeyed.

 An animal species have the same behaviour and "communicate" in the same way all over the world. How come they do not have the same rights all over the world?

 "Animal welfare" by definition.

The definition of animal welfare is discussed but a more general definition is the one given by Broom in his article Indicators of poor welfare. Br.Vet J 142:534-526, 1986:"The welfare of an individual is its state as regards its attempts to cope with its environment".

 In Sweden at the university of agricultural sciences when some student and teachers demanded a course in prevention of cruelty to animals (Swedish : Djurskydd) the university defined the Swedish word Djurskydd (eng. Prevention of cruelty to animals) as ethics, law and veterinary medicine to the ministry of agriculture in 1988 (SLU 15.2-3083/88).

 There is also a definition on animal needs: "A need is a requirement, which is a consequence of the biology of the animal, to obtain a particular resource or respond to a particular environment or bodily stimulus."

 But some other researchers, Duncan and Petherich, stated in an article published in 1989 in Applied Animal Behaviour, that animal welfare is " solely depentendent on what animals feel".

 It is generally accepted that animal welfare is assessed by behaviour, physiology, health and production. Production is however not a reliable parameter because animal could be bred for some special reason, like eggleying. A hen in a cage does not have a "good hen life" though she is producing eggs.

 Also health is hard to use as an indicator of welfare as a perfectly healthy pig could have extremely reduced welfare by not being able to do anything at all except biting other pigs tail. Behaviour can for example be assessed by Preference tests, Aversion tests, Deprivation and motivation and by Stereotypes. Preference tests can be used for example to find out how important a hen think it is to bath in sand. Aversion test is used to see what an animal really dislike but their results may be confounded by learning effects.

 The problem with all these tests is that they are constructed by man and as the different species have quite different way of hearing, seeing and smelling compared to each other and to man we never really know what we are doing when we create an ethological research model. For example "smell" might influence an animal to a much higher degree than we ever thought of. Our model might concern seeing and hearing. This problem with methods is the same in all science. When you chose your method then you have chosen a special answer.

 Stereotypes are repeated, relatively sequences of movements which have no obvious purpose. They develop when animals are severely or chronically frustrated; indicating that they are having difficulties in coping and their welfare is poor.

 A great deal of the traditional research in pharmacology and physiology could be revalued from the view of the animal and in that way, provide us with a lot of animal welfare data. Professor Bernard Rollin from the university of Colorado has written the book "The unheeded Cry. Animal Consciousness Animal Pain and Science " which deals with this subject.

 In animal welfare science they use methods for measuring cortisol/cortocosteron production (but just taking the bloodsample will increase the levels of these substances). They also use the heart rate as an indicator of stress and the activity of the immunosystem.

 What happened after the prevention of cruelty to animals act was implemented in Sweden?

During the debate that led up to the enactment of this law, it would appear that the greatest responsibility was assumed by those farmers who were already applying humane methods. The other farmers, those who tended to look upon their animals as mere "production units" reacted vociferously against the sort of animal ethic for which Astrid Lindgren was pleading. They were especially motivated to water down the new legislation and, to some extent, succeeded.

 But reality has passed them by, so to speak. Those farmers who had always thought to promote the welfare of their animals were encouraged by the debate and pressured their trade associations into initiating improvements, with or without specific legal prescription, just to keep the consumers' confidence in the product.

 In short, the present public debate seems to have accomplished more than the law itself. One much discussed passage in the new law relates to cows' rights to summer pasture grazing. Many farmers have gone further on their own initiative, for example by letting young calves out to pasture- a sight that had not been seen in Sweden for many years. It may well be that farmers are beginning to realise that the best public relations for their products is the sight of beautiful animals in natural setting.

 Prohibition of antibiotics.

In addition to the above, Sweden also has a law that prohibits the use of antibiotics and hormones in fodder for the purpose of stimulating growth. The law of fodder to animals. The two laws together have contributed a great deal to the creation of better conditions for farm animals in Sweden. However after entering the EU, Sweden has only three years to prove that antibiotics in fodder to animals can encourage micro-organisms resistant to antibiotics needed for human therapeutics.

 Without using antibiotics to animals it is not possible to cram for example chickens, calves and pigs in environment not suitable for animals. The big "animal factories" need the use of antibiotics. The debate which began in the 1980s has had the effect of making people more aware of the reality behind the plastic-wrapped steak in the food market. Increasing numbers of consumers are prepared to pay a little extra in order to avoid cheap meats from maltreated animals and animals brought up by the help of antibiotics. There is also a growing sentiment against highly rationalised, assembly-line slaughtering processes that cause unnecessary pain and distress. Beef, pork, milk and eggs from animals that have been able to live a more decent life without medicines probably do not taste so very different than the same products from less fortunate animals. But Swedes are traditionally an animal-loving people, and prefer food from healthy animals that have been well-treated during their short lifetimes, and have not been the cause or excuse for environmental destruction.This has nothing to do with animal welfare research but a changed attitude among the people to farm animals. 

The dialogue between producer and consumer.

The debate over animals rights has often been polarised, at one extreme, militant animal liberationists, and at the other , insensitive "animal industrialists" who show no respect or consideration for the creatures whose lives they control.

Veterinarians and animal scientists have a potentially useful and important role to play in reducing the conflict between producers and consumers of animal food products. This might mean nothing more drastic than simply informing the producers that animals do have different needs of environments depending on what species they are. As scientists, veterinarians know that all mammals experience pain, agony, fear in much the same fashion as do human beings.

This is based on the assumption that it is possible to extrapolate the effects of different medicine, for example, analgesics from rats to humans. This knowledge gives us the obligation to handle domestic animals in such away that we are not causing them diseases, pain or distress by environments not suitable to the species concerned.

 Veterinarians and animal scientists can tell people working with animals that animals can experience pain, fear and discomfort. They can inform them that it really hurts when electric prods are applied to various parts of the bodies of the animals, when calves are branded, or when young bulls are castrated without anaesthetic. Veterinarians and animal scientists can also inform farmers friends that pigs are just as intelligent animal as the dog.

 But people working with animals have also the responsibility to inform the consumer that animals are not human beings but animals, and that different species have different needs especially concerning the environment in which they are kept. Scientists working in the field and producers should, for example, explain that the pale veal meat is a meat without iron and not so healthy as a meat from a calf bred without anaemia. They should explain that animals probably not are aware of death and have no death-fear, but do feel pain and agony.

 What distinguishes humans from all other species is that they have the capacity to put themselves in other creatures' situations, and act accordingly. There is a growing consensus in Europe and in many other parts of the world that maltreatment of animals is incompatible with human dignity.

 References and suggestions for further reading:

Albright,J.L., "Diagnosis and treatment of behaviour problems for practitioners" in The 78th Annual Veterinary Conference at Purdue University, September 21, 1990.

Food Animal Well-Being, 1993, Conference Proceeding and Deliberations. Purdue University Office of Agricultural Research Program, West Lafayette IN  47907-1140.

Fraser, A.F. and D.M. Broom. "Farm animal behaviour and welfare". Balliére Tindall, 1990.

Grandin, Temple, "Farm animal welfare during handling, transport, and slaughter". JAVMA, vol.204, 3, Feb.1, 1994, 372-377.

Grandin, Temple, "Solving livestock handling problems". Veterinary Medicine, Oct. 1994, 989-998.

Grandin, Temple, "Thinking in pictures", Doubleday, New York, 1995, ISBN 0-385-47792-9.

Harrison, Ruth, "Animal Machine: the new factory farming industry.", Stuart, 1964.

Lindgren, Astrid und Kristina Forslund, "Meine Kuh will auch Spass haben. Einmischung in die Tierschutzdebatte", Verlag Friedrich Oetinger, Hamburg, 1991,  ISBN 3-7891-4104-6.

Manning, Aubrey and M.S. Dawkins, "An Introduction to Animal Behaviour", fourth edition, University Press, Cambridge, 1992.

Pharmacology, ed. H.P. Rang et al, Churchill Livingstone Inc. 1995.

Review of Medical Physiology, ed. F.Ganong, Appleton & Lange, USA, 1993.

Rollin, Bernard E., "The Unheeded Cry", Oxford University Press, New York, 1990.

Rollin, Bernard E., "Farm animal welfare", Iowa State University Press/Ames Iowa 50014, 1995.

Veterinary Medicine. A Textbook of the Diseases of Cattle, Sheep, Pigs, Goats and Horses. ed. O. M. Radostits, D.C.Blood and C.C. Gay, Balliére Tindall, 1994.

Webster, John. "Animal Welfare. A cool eye towards eden." Blackwell Science Ltd, 1994.

If You would like to contact  Kristina Forslund and discuss the situation of the animals You can reach her here:




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