Improving Animal Welfare: A Practical Approach

Edited by Dr. Temple Grandin
Colorado State University, USA

ISBN: 978-1-84593-541-2
c. 336 pages
131 figures/illustrations

Subject Classifcation: KNAC, PSVP, TVH, TW
Territorial Market Rights: World
Published by CABI

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Chapter 12: Improving animal welfare: Practical approaches for achieving change.

by Helen R. Whay and David C.J. Main, University of Bristol, United Kingdom.

Both authors have worked extensively with dairy farmers to improve cow welfare and reduce lameness. They have been successful in changing the attitudes of producers to bring about improvements.

Below is an excerpt from Chapter 12...

The concept of ownership of change is much more subtle that simply saying to a producer ‘it is you who has to implement these changes so therefore you are the owner of them’. It is also not quite as cynical as trying to make someone think that the changes were their idea in the first place. Giving someone ownership of change is about creating opportunities for them to explore and realize their problem and allowing them to be a partner in generating ideas for possible solutions. Pointing out to a farmer that their animals are suffering from a welfare problem and even going as far as suggesting they may be breaching laws or codes of practice is a challenge to their dignity and professionalism and can easily be seen as a hostile act. To return to the previously used example of dairy cattle lameness: imagine a scenario where a farmer is aware that he or she has lame cows in the herd but has not yet considered the implications of this lameness. By asking a series of questions about what effect it has on the cows, how the cows feel when they are lame, what are the time costs for the farm workers, and in what ways do lame cows cost money, the farmer is able to build up a picture of all the potential consequences of having lame cows on the farm and rationalize how important these pitfalls are. So now the problem belongs to the producer and is personal to their farm. Others may not accept that lameness is a problem until they hear about and discuss the problem with other farmers in their area. Likewise ownership of solutions is important because there are rarely one-size-fits-all solutions to problems on farms as no two farms operate in exactly the same way. While considering and discussing possible solutions a farmer needs to run through implementing the change on their own farm in their mind; this process of rehearsing changes is an important step in achieving implementation. In fact, rehearsing change may even extend as far as carrying out a series of tests of the desired change before fully committing to it. Again it is also often important to hear from others that they too are trying out changes and often it is more reassuring to hear from a fellow farmer that a particular action worked than to hear it from a farm advisor, veterinary surgeon or welfare scientist.

So the key aims of an encouragement approach are to:

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Click here to return to the Improving Animal Welfare Table of Contents page and read other chapter excerpts.