Reply to the Paper by Stan Curtis on Animal State of Being and Welfare

by Temple Grandin
Dept of Animal Science
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, CO 80526

According to the paper written by S.E. Curtis in the Professional Animal Scientist, animal productive and reproductive performance are the two best measures of animal well being and welfare. There are many situations where an animal can be very productive, but have conditions that would be bad for animal welfare. One good example is dairy cows. A dairy cow with poor body condition and large lesions and swellings on her legs can be a good milk producer. If only the criteria of performance and reproduction are used, animal welfare could be very poor. I agree with Stanley Curtis that other measures such as body condition index and culling rates are also important. It is my opinion that the following ten easily measured variables are equally important as the two criteria proposed by Dr. Curtis.

The above list applies to animals or birds living on a farm and it does not cover handling, transport, or slaughter. To have a bare minimum acceptable level of animal welfare all ten of the above criteria are important for animals living on a farm. Standards for handling, transport, and slaughter are on other parts of this webpage,

To provide more than a bare minimum level of welfare behavior will need to be taken into account. Behavior can be measure objectively. In the research that I conducted for my Ph.D. with Stanley Curtis, pigs had a preference for having soft objects to chew on. A cloth strip or rubber hose was preferred to a metal chain. Each time the pigs pulled on an object a counter was tripped. The choices were measured with hard numbers on a counter. Even though I do not know what the pig was feeling, it was obviously seeking soft objects to chew on. To provide a higher level of welfare, it would be sensible to provide pigs living on a concrete floor with some things that they actually seek. This is just one simple example.

Animal maturation can be easily measured. Various experiments show many objective methods for measuring how hard an animal will work to obtain something. Behavioral research is extremely important in helping both the public and scientists to make decisions about standards for animal housing on farms. I agree with Dr. Stanley Curtis on the need for measuring welfare indicators in an objective manner. However, I am extremely concerned that this paper may cause some people to completely ignore the importance of behavior. I will conclude with an example where behavior has obvious meaning. If a person was screaming and kicking when a tooth was pulled with no anesthetic, would you say that the screaming means nothing? The obvious answer is that the person was in pain. This is just one example where the interpretation of the meaning of the behavior was obvious.


S.E. Curtis, 2007. Commentary: Performance indicates animal state of being: A Cinderella axiom? Professional Animal Scientist. 23:573-583

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