‘Welfare Quality®’ is a five year EC sponsored research programme that preceded the EAWP project. EAWP intends to build on the WQ-findings, and to integrate the outcomes of WQ in practical measures that can be applied in the food chain. The WQ project started in May 2004 and ends in December 2009. Some 44 institutes and universities in Europe and Latin America have participated in Welfare Quality. For full details, see www.welfarequality.net.
Although a variety of quality assurance schemes already exist, the WQ approach is rather different. Existing schemes generally build on design measures, whereas WQ focuses more on animal based parameters (so-called ‘outcome based parameters’). Researchers in the WQ-project thoroughly tested the various measures to identify which ones were most suitable to be included in the Welfare Quality assessment scheme.
Starting from a literature review and internal consultation, WQ designed a hierarchical evaluation model that can be used to ascribe value-scores for twelve welfare criteria, both on-farm and at slaughter. These welfare criteria included absence of hunger, absence of thirst, comfort around resting, thermal comfort, enough space, absence of disease, pain and negative emotions etc.
The criteria were translated into some 30-50 practical measures for each of the species (see below) on-farm and at slaughter. Subsequently, on the basis of actual measures, scores are produced for each of the four welfare principles (good feeding, good housing, good health and appropriate behaviour). These scores are then integrated into a single overall assessment score that enables farms to be sorted into one of four categories according to the welfare levels of their animals.
WQ has developed on-farm welfare assessment protocols for dairy cows, beef cattle and veal calves, fattening pigs, sows and piglets, laying hens and broilers as well as protocols for the assessment of welfare at slaughter. An overview of the practical measures and the reasons why some were deemed suitable for welfare assessment while others were not will appear in one of the Welfare Quality® series of books, this should come on the market in the late summer of 2009. For more details, see the Welfare Quality website.
The authors gratefully acknowledge from the European Community financial participation under the Seventh Framework Programme for Research, Technological Development and Demonstration Activities, for the Support Action "EAWP" European Animal Welfare Platform, Grant Agreement KBBE-212326.
This publication reflects only the author(s)'views and the European Community is not liable for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.