Scientific Opinion on the use of animal-based measures to assess welfare of broilers

Broiler welfare, welfare assessment, risk assessment, welfare outcome indicators, slaughterhouse inspection, on-farm assessment, animal-based measures
First published in the EFSA Journal
3 July 2012
Adopted
22 June 2012
Type
Scientific Opinion

Abstract

Animal-based measures (ABM) can be used effectively in the on-farm evaluation of broiler welfare in relation to laws, codes of practice, quality assurance schemes, management and also partly for ante-mortem inspection. Some ABM can also be taken post-mortem at the slaughterhouse. Non-animal-based measures can be used when the association between them and the welfare outcome is strong and when they are more efficient than ABM as a means to safeguard welfare. They can also be useful predictors of welfare in broilers. The choice of animal-based measures will depend upon the specific objectives of the assessment. The full list is comparable to a ‘toolbox’, from which the appropriate set of measures can be selected. The Welfare Quality® protocol provides information on the majority of the welfare outcomes for the main factors identified in the EFSA Scientific Opinions but not those where time limitation prevents it. There is a lack of research on the use of ABM on-farm and in the slaughterhouse to assess pain, frustration, boredom and other negative or positive emotional states in the standard broiler. There are limited management options to prevent poor welfare when the flock is still in the house e.g. to improve the ventilation system. The same applies to negative consequences arising from genetic selection. There is a need for more systematic flock monitoring and surveillance programmes in the broiler industry. Visual inspection has a very high potential to improve animal welfare in broiler production when a range of appropriate ABM is used in the slaughterhouse. Benchmarking can be used to document welfare changes over time, including automatic monitoring and assessment systems. Attention should also be paid to initial and ongoing training of assessors in the field and in the abattoir to ensure valid and robust measurements.

Panel members at the time of adoption

Anette Bøtner, Donald Broom, Marcus G. Doherr, Mariano Domingo, Jörg Hartung, Linda Keeling, Frank Koenen, Simon More, David Morton, Pascal A. Oltenacu, Fulvio Salati, Mo Salman, Moez Sanaa, James M. Sharp, Jan A. Stegeman, Endre Szücs, Hans-H. Thulke, Philippe Vannier, John Webster and Martin Wierup
Panel on Animal Health and Welfare
Contact
ahaw [at] efsa.europa.eu
doi
10.2903/j.efsa.2012.2774
EFSA Journal 2012;10(7):2774
Question Number
On request from
European Commission