WAFA: Welfare Assessment of Farm Animals

Farm animal welfare is a growing societal concern, affecting both production and consumption practices. This concern calls for assessment systems whereby producers can get an idea of the welfare level they provide to the animals under their care and consumers can get an idea of the welfare of the animals of which they purchase the products.

The European Welfare Quality® project developed standardized ways of assessing animal welfare and integrating this information to enable farms and slaughterhouses to be assigned to one of four categories (from poor, to good animal welfare). One of the innovations of the Welfare Quality® animal welfare assessment system is that it focuses more on animal-based measures (e.g. directly related to animal body condition, health aspects, injuries, behaviour, etc.).

The full protocols can be downloaded from The Welfare Quality Network website.
To summarise Welfare Quality® approach, welfare principles and criteria were first defined, before being broken down into measures.
The calculation of scores to produce an overall assessment was tuned according to expert opinion

Welfare principles and criteria

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Measures to check welfare criteria

Whenever possible, the final Welfare Quality® assessment measures have been evaluated with respect to their validity (does the measure reflect some aspect of the actual welfare of animals), reliability (acceptable inter or intra observer repeatability and robustness to external factors, e.g. time of day or weather conditions) and their feasibility. A further important aspect of this data collection is that value judgements are minimized, i.e. the assessor counts or classifies animals according to a simple series of categories illustrated by pictures or video clips. Hence measures in the protocols do not require veterinary diagnostic expertise or specialist animal behaviour knowledge to be accurately recorded. Some measures which were initially proposed did not meet these conditions and were dropped from the scheme early in the evaluation process, whereas other measures have been accepted in anticipation of further improvements and refinements. This latter concession is because at least one measure per criterion is needed to assess overall animal welfare. For some criteria, it has been necessary to include resource- and/or management-based measures because no animal-based measure was sufficiently sensitive or satisfying in terms of validity, reliability, or feasibility.

Research is continuing to identify adequate measures. Welfare Quality® protocols are updated in the light of such new knowledge.

Calculation of scores

General principles

If you wish to calculate scores from data collected on farms, contact us.