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Aust Vet J. 2008 Nov;86(11):446-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-0813.2008.00338.x.

The questionable value of some science-based 'welfare' assessments in intensive animal farming: sow stalls as an illustrative example.

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Animals Australia, North Melbourne, Vic 3051, Australia.


A recent review of the code of practice for pigs brought attention to the question of how to assess the impact of housing conditions on pig welfare. The stance adopted by the law-makers, which mirrors that of industry, is that the status quo should be maintained until there is irrefutable scientific evidence in favour of change. Sows in intensive pig farms are often confined in cages (sow stalls) that are little bigger than their body. Many people find this repellent and the question of whether keeping sows in stalls is detrimental to their welfare has become a major focus of debate. All animal welfare groups in Australia, including the RSPCA, oppose the use of sow stalls. This brief essay critically examines the rationale for refusing to sanction change unless supported by scientific evidence. We conclude that the criteria for assessing welfare should not be restricted to consideration of scientific evidence alone, but should be widened to encompass moral and ethical considerations.

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[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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