The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) asked the Panel on Animal Health and Animal Welfare (AHAW) for the development of Risk Assessment Guidelines for Animal Welfare.
The aim of this Guidance is to provide a harmonised methodology for the assessment of risks for farm animal welfare, together with suggestions about the assessment of benefits for animal welfare. The guidance is intended to be applicable to all types of factors that affect welfare (i.e. housing characteristics, transport conditions, stunning and killing conditions), all types of husbandry systems and all animal categories.
The risks for animal welfare in EFSA scientific opinions have been considered since 2004 and the terminology used is explained in the Glossary. Risk assessment provides a science-based, transparent, and reproducible framework to address specific welfare problems within a limited time frame and with available scientific data. Benefit assessment should be possible with the same methodology. The definition of the target population, the exposure scenario and the conceptual model are the major components of the problem formulation. A conceptual model should be built in order to describe the exposure pathways and the different combination of events showing the relevant factors and their effects on the target population. Relevant factors related to, for example, genetic selection, housing and management, transport, stunning or killing, that are likely to improve or impair the welfare of the animals should be identified.
Risk assessment has three elements: exposure assessment, consequence characterisation and risk characterisation. Exposure assessment should provide a qualitative or quantitative evaluation of the strength, duration, frequency and patterns of exposure for the factors relevant to the exposure scenario(s) developed during the problem formulation.
Consequence characterisation involves assessing the magnitude (intensity and duration) of the negative and positive consequences for welfare and the probability of their occurrence at the individual level. Risk characterisation is the final step of risk assessment and is the qualitative or quantitative estimation of the probability of occurrence and magnitude of negative and positive welfare effects (known or potential) in a given population.
Uncertainty and variability in risk assessment, as well as all assumptions used in problem formulation and risk assessment, need to be clearly expressed. Quality of risk assessment includes the quality of the data input, the relevance of the assumptions and the quality of the final assessment in relation to uncertainty and variability.