Sunday, July 18, 2010
Why is animal welfare education important?
It is important for the animals in our care that they are treated with respect - and for their sake, educating citizens about animal welfare is crucial.
Education has taught farmers new skills in taking better care of their animals, it has made clear to animal transporters the merits of avoiding stress to animals en route, and it has promoted new practices involving pre-slaughter stunning in abattoirs, so that animals suffer less pain and stress at the point of slaughter.
When animal keepers and handlers are more involved and informed about the standards of animal protection and welfare, their animals are treated with more consideration.
Raising awareness among the general public about animal welfare issues leads to greater consumer pressure for products derived from animals reared in a welfare-friendly way. This results in more incisive action at commercial and political level.
Animal-welfare education is just as important for people. A society that places a value on all forms of life and on minimising suffering is, generally, more humane. Such societies usually experience reduced incidence of violent crime. At the same time citizens are better able to identify and prevent abuse targeted at both animals and humans.
Education also reinforces the growing awareness of the close links between humans and our environment. Animal production systems that respect the environment and the welfare of animals result in sustainable incomes for farmers and reduced use of natural resources.
Animal husbandry systems in farming are coming under increasing scrutiny, as European consumers view farming as more than just a means of food production. Nowadays the close links of animal welfare with food safety and quality, environmental protection, and sustainability are widely accepted.
The EU is determined to widen the impact of education about animal welfare.
This is partly a response to the Treaty of Lisbon that entered into force in December 2009. It contains a new provision for animal welfare and defines animals as “sentient beings” (that is, animals that can experience pleasure, pain and suffering). This has firmly anchored animal welfare in the legal basis of the European Union.
The EU's interest also stems from the fact that concerns over animal welfare reflect the EU's own values of solidarity, respect, compassion, empathy and a sense of justice and consideration for others.