Guidance on Risk Assessment for Animal Welfare


Panel on Animal Health and Welfare
EFSA Journal
EFSA Journal 2012;10(1):2513 [30 pp.].
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 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

The AHAW Panel wishes to thank the members of the Working Group on the Guidance on risk assessment for animal welfare: Moez Sanaa (Chairman), Donald Broom, Linda Keeling, Endre Szucs, Pascal Oltenacu, John Webster, Simon More, David Morton, Bosse Algers, Mo Salman, Antonio Velarde, Michael Sharp, Joerg Hartung and Hans-Hermann Thulke, Philippe Vannier, and Martin Wierup and EFSA staff, Elisa Aiassa and Oriol Ribó, for the support provided to this scientific opinion.

Guidance of the Scientific Committee/Scientific Panel
On request from
Question Number
13 dicembre 2011
25 gennaio 2012
Last Updated
15 febbraio 2012. This version replaces the previous one/s.
European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), Parma, Italy
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The document provides methodological guidance to assess risks for animal welfare, considering the various husbandry systems, management procedures and the different animal welfare issues. The terminology for the risk assessment of animal welfare is described. Risk assessment should not be carried out unless the relevant welfare problem is clearly specified and formulated. The major components of the problem formulation are the description of the exposure scenario, the target population and the conceptual model linking the relevant factors of animal welfare concern. The formal risk assessment consists of exposure assessment, consequence characterisation, and risk characterisation. The systematic evaluation of the various aspects and components of the assessment procedure aims at ensuring its consistency. All assumptions used in problem formulation and risk assessment need to be clear. This also applies to uncertainty and variability in the various steps of the risk assessment. The choice between qualitative, semi-qualitative or quantitative approaches should be made based on the purpose or the type of questions to be answered, data, and resource availability for a specific risk assessment. Quantitative data should be used whenever possible. Positive effects on welfare (benefit) could be handled within the framework of risk assessment if the analysis considers factors as having both positive and negative effects on animal welfare. The last section details the main components of risk assessment documentation.


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.

Animal welfare risk assessment, problem formulation, exposure assessment, consequence characterisation, risk characterisation
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