Better animal health for better animal welfare

Animal welfare a priority for Europe

A whopping 94% of survey respondents in the 2016 Eurobarometer on Animal Welfare believe it is important to protect the welfare of farmed animals. Whatever elements of animal welfare this view is based on, it’s clear that animal welfare awareness when it comes to food production has increased notably in recent decades in Europe.

People hold a similar view when it comes to the welfare of companion animals, in fact, 74% of those surveyed believe the welfare of companion animals should be better protected than it is currently.

With that in mind the European Commission has been reviewing the fitness of current EU legislation with the objective of revising it and updating it with the latest scientific information and also societal demand.

Animal health, a prerequisite for animal welfare

Animal health products play an important role in maintaining high standards of animal welfare. Vaccines and parasiticides provide the means to prevent disease spreading amongst livestock, as well as among pets. Where bacterial infections occur, antibiotics can help to control them. And diagnostic tools are also helping to ensure that the right diagnosis is given early on so that the appropriate treatment options can be given to quickly remedy illness.

Animal health is recognised as being essential for animal welfare in the EU Regulation on Transmissible Animal Diseases, also known as the Animal Health Law, and it is also indirectly referenced in the internationally recognised principles of animal welfare known as the ‘Five Freedoms’.

The science is also developing in this area, and many scientists and animal welfare academics now talk about the Five Domains of animal welfare, which essentially include these same five elements, but with a greater focus on the mental state of the animal.

Five Freedoms

Animal welfare and disease

Our concern for animal welfare is, in a first instance, centred around disease prevention, control and treatment, but we recognise that ill-health can be the result of a complex combination of factors. Some are intrinsic, such as genetic make-up; some are external, such as living conditions, food, or contact with wildlife; some are environmental, including weather or the presence of air or water-borne diseases. No matter the circumstances however, animals just like people can get sick and in the instance of illness, it is important that veterinary care is given so that the appropriate treatment can be advised to avoid animal suffering.

The right conditions can of course help minimise the risk of disease, but they can never prevent it completely. This is why animal welfare requires good animal husbandry practices, responsible pet care, access to veterinary support, and animal vaccines, medicines and other healthcare means.

A better life for pets

Today, advances in animal healthcare are supporting a better life for our pets. With pets living longer and often being treated as part of the family, there are growing occurrences of lifestyle-related diseases such as obesity, diabetes, arthritis, and cancer. Developments over the past years have brought a range of therapeutic options to address these concerns, ensuring a better life for pets.

Better welfare for farm animals

Increasingly, consumers wish to know that the food they consume has come from animals that have enjoyed a healthy life and therefore a high standard of animal welfare. Farmers have a duty of care towards these animals, making sure they are safe, fed, happy and healthy. New animal health monitoring tools for farms are helping farmers to keep a closer eye out for signs of ill health or discomfort, so that care can be given before illness strikes, or to help stop it spreading further.

Contributing to the review of EU animal welfare legislation

With the review of EU legislation on animal welfare, the European Commission is expected to publish a package of four proposals on welfare during transport, at the time of slaughter, on keeping and breeding, as well as on an animal welfare label by the end of 2023. And for the first time, the legislation will also cover aspects of pet welfare. AnimalhealthEurope will continue to play an active role in the review as member of the EU Platform for Animal Welfare, highlighting areas where animal health solutions can contribute. With today’s expanding toolkit for veterinarians, farmers and other animal guardians, our industry offers connected health care for better welfare and more holistic animal management.