"An important issue in animal agriculture nowadays is the public
demand for evidence that animals on farms and ranches are being
treated humanely, that animal state of being is high most of the
time," explains Stan Curtis in the most recent issue of The
Professional Animal Scientist.
"As important as this question is, scientists have yet to
reach consensus as to how to accomplish that task. It is an
unsettled area of knowledge that is seriously in need of more
It is not possible, Curtis notes, to objectively measure an
animal's feelings in the laboratory, let alone in a production
"It is the interpretation of such observations of behavior
patterns putatively indicative of negative feelings where the
'feelings approach' is still wanting as to its practical
usefulness on farms and ranches," he says.
"Therefore, others advocate more objectively measurable
animal-performance traits as more valid indicators of ASB
today." Animal state of being is also called ASB.
Curtis writes that what cannot be measured cannot be managed.
"We can directly, objectively measure productive and
reproductive performance, but not feelings (e.g., suffering);
and performance reductions are early, sensitive indicators that
ASB is being compromised."
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In the absence of an adequate, scientifically informed understanding
of its conscious feelings, the best single set of measurable --
hence, manageable -- indicators of that animal's state of being will
be its rates of productive and reproductive performance relative to
its predicted potential to perform.
"The community of animal-welfare scientists should be enlarged to
include more people specializing in state-indicative animal traits
in addition to behavioral and cognitive ones," he says.
Farmers have long recognized the effectiveness of performance as
a measurement of animal state of being, he adds.
"They know that -- all other things being equal -- the highly
productive animal will be the animal that appears to be experiencing
low stress and enjoying a high state of being," he said. "If
scientists would recognize this and more attention were accorded the
performance axiom, then the recognition of performance as an
indicator of ASB would have been resurrected from an unfortunate
hiatus that has lasted for several decades.
"The performance axiom would experience a Cinderella moment."
Curtis concludes that if progress is to be made in the assessment
of animal state of being, the importance and use of objective
measures of animal performance must be markedly increased.
[Text from file received from
the University of