Change thinking to keep animal welfare on agenda

Sep 17, 2013 by Denise Cahill
Change thinking to keep animal welfare on agenda
Prof Dawkins says providing good welfare simply means the animal is healthy and has what it wants. Credit: Andy Purviance

To keep animal welfare on the political and societal agenda, there needs to be a change in the way we present the argument, a leading international animal ethicist says.

Oxford University's Marian Stamp Dawkins made the claim during the public lecture "Is more efficient food production in conflict with animal welfare?" at UWA this month as part of 2050 Food, a series of three lectures targeting key issues likely to shape the nature of human food.

Professor Dawkins says to make sure animal welfare stays on the agenda, we need to focus on the argument that animals provide a service to humans rather than that animals are conscious, intelligent beings.

"The problem for us is that we do not understand our own human consciousness," Prof Dawkins says.

She also says many other cultures do not share the Western view of animals.

"To convince the unconvinced we need to stress the service value of ," she says.

"Animals matter because they are useful to us."

Using this argument could lead to a reduction in new human diseases, reduce the and also allow food producers to make a living, Prof Dawkins says.

"Seventy-five per cent of new human diseases over the last 10 years have originated from animals or ," she says.

Prof Dawkins says providing good welfare simply means the animal is healthy and has what it wants.

To argue her point, Prof Dawkins used a study she did at a commercial duck farm in the UK, that did not have access to a pond and whose only water was supplied via a nipple.

"Many at commercial farms are kept without bathing water," she says.

"The argument from producers was that if they gave ducks they would get in and dirty the water straight away.

"We asked two questions—do they want it and do they need it?"

Working with the commercial duck farmer, Prof Dawkins gave groups of ducks a choice between a shower, pond or trough or nipple (for drinking water).

"They loved the showers," she says.

"They spent much more of their time under the showers. The nipples they spent very little time with. They clearly want water that they can splash over."

Importantly, she found the ducks with access to showers had better overall health including eyes and feathers than those denied water.

She says it was important to realise may be willing to improve the welfare of the animals they breed for human consumption, but are constrained by costs.

Explore further: Science measures animal welfare

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Science measures animal welfare

Jul 16, 2013

A RECENT forum has questioned whether science can inform and improve animal welfare in research and production. The concept was explored at a joint Ag Institute Australia and Australian Society of Animal ...

Why lab-grown meat is a good thing

Aug 05, 2013

While the sight of someone eating a very expensive burger is clearly something of a publicity stunt, the underlying idea behind laboratory-grown meat is sound. The research is highly laudable, because what it promises is ...

Recommended for you

Male monkey filmed caring for dying mate (w/ Video)

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —The incident was captured by Dr Bruna Bezerra and colleagues in the Atlantic Forest in the Northeast of Brazil.  Dr Bezerra is a Research Associate at the University of Bristol and a Professor ...

Orchid named after UC Riverside researcher

Apr 17, 2014

One day about eight years ago, Katia Silvera, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Riverside, and her father were on a field trip in a mountainous area in central Panama when they stumbled ...

In sex-reversed cave insects, females have the penises

Apr 17, 2014

Researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on April 17 have discovered little-known cave insects with rather novel sex lives. The Brazilian insects, which represent four distinct but re ...

Fear of the cuckoo mafia

Apr 17, 2014

If a restaurant owner fails to pay the protection money demanded of him, he can expect his premises to be trashed. Warnings like these are seldom required, however, as fear of the consequences is enough to ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...

Finnish inventor rethinks design of the axe

(Phys.org) —Finnish inventor Heikki Kärnä is the man behind the Vipukirves Leveraxe, which is a precision tool for splitting firewood. He designed the tool to make the job easier and more efficient, with ...

Making graphene in your kitchen

Graphene has been touted as a wonder material—the world's thinnest substance, but super-strong. Now scientists say it is so easy to make you could produce some in your kitchen.