Animal welfare is an important part of sustainable agriculture.
The strong link between humans and animals in the Western Balkans originates from the long tradition of livestock farming in this region. In this part of Europe shepherds can still be seen, keeping sheep or bovine herds in the meadows, always accompanied by faithful shepherd dogs.
Animal welfare is a part of good agricultural practice and is closely linked to achieving higher animal productivity and higher profits, or smaller losses and costs due to disease and animal injuries.
Intensive farming practices that disturb the welfare of farm animals directly affect the increased greenhouse gas emissions that are the main cause of climate change, the destruction of natural habitats of wild species through the spread of agricultural land for growing farm crops necessary for feeding farm animals in intensive systems, and the use and pollution water resources around farms with a large number of animals (UN Food and Agriculture Organization - FAO, 2006).
18% of greenhouse gases emitted is caused by intensive livestock production - more than traffic (UN Food and Agriculture Organization - FAO, 2006)
"The welfare of an animal shows how the animal reacts to the conditions in which it lives. The animal has a good state of wellbeing when it is healthy, nourished, safe, able to exercise natural behavior, if it feels comfortable and when it does not suffer due to unpleasant conditions such as pain, fear and stress."(World Organization for Animal Health - OIE, 2017 )
An internationally recognized concept of "Five Freedoms" can serve as a useful guide for assessing animal welfare:
1. Freedom from hunger and thirst by providing sufficient quantities of quality food and fresh water;
2. Freedom from discomfort by providing appropriate shelters and resting places;
3. Freedom from pain, injury and illness by providing fast and adequate veterinary care and preventive health care;
4. Freedom from fear and stress by providing conditions and procedures that do not lead to mental suffering of the animal;
5. Freedom to manifest the basic forms of behavior characteristic of the species by providing sufficient space, adequate facilities for animalkeeping and the appropriate company of same species animals.
The concept of five freedoms is embedded in the cores of all international and national regulations relating to the welfare of animals.
In many rural areas, the survival of small, usually not so well off farmers, is directly related to the survival and health of the animals they grow, and to the quality of products of animal origin.
High-efficiency gains can be achieved by improving production on small farms through improving nutrition, selecting those breeds of livestock that respond well to the local climate, ensuring adequate veterinary care and such production practice that ensuresmeeting animals’ needs of behavior, ie.reduces the possibility of stress and injury.
The welfare of farm animals is an important and indispensable part of sustainable agriculture.
Many factors contribute to the production of safe and healthy food, but the health and welfare of animals are of paramount importance (World Organization for Animal Health, OIE)
Sustainable agriculture must also be sustainable in livestock production. The better the conditions for keeping animals, the better the state of their welfare. Thus the added value of the products of these animals is higher, which has a positive impact on both the general health condition of the animals and the farmers' income.
Since the 1950s, livestock production and livestock practices have been rapidly changing in order to increase the volume of production, and this has resulted in the application of some new agricultural practices. In industrial farms, a large number of animals are kept in conditions that adversely affect their welfare. An example of this is dairy cows, which after two or three years of intense milking are very often excluded from production because of the poor health condition (mastitis or lameness often develops). Such agricultural practices are not sustainable in the long term, especially for small and medium-sized agricultural holdings.
The fact that animals are conscious beings able to sense pain and suffering in industrial conditions is largely ignored. Animals are often unable to express normal behavior, and the place in which they are kept is often so limited that it prevents the animal from getting up or turning. Examples of this kind of keeping are narrow stalls for calves, broilers and battery cages for laying hens, then small, limited space for sows and many others.
Benefits of the good state of animals’wellbeing
Scientific research by world's leading experts in the field of human and animal health has shown that intensive animal husbandry practices have direct consequences on human health.
IMPROVEMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH
The achievement of high standards in the field of animal welfare positively influences the strengthening of the competitiveness of animal origin products on the domestic and European market, and consequently the sustainable rural development (Media Research Center, 2012).
People who provide their animals with a good state of welfare will benefit from it. Proper care and provision of necessary veterinary care to farm animals reduces the risk of communicable diseasesin common people and animals (tuberculosis, tetanus, rabies, ebola, trichinellosis, typhus and many others). Many parasites that are thought to be under control are more likely to reappear, as animals are kept in conditions suitablefor the development and spread of these parasites, as well as many other diseases. This leads to an increasing use of antibiotics and antiparasitics in order to avoid death. Scientific research by world's leading experts in the field of human and animal health has shown that excessive use of antibiotics and hormones in livestock production has direct consequences on human health.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND
LOCAL COMMUNITIES DEVELOPMENT
Income, social status, and safety, food and clothing of about a billion people are directly dependent on animals, so the welfare of these animals is crucial for their support (FAO, 2008).
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND LOCAL COMMUNITIES DEVELOPMENT
Caring for the welfare of farm animals affects the reduction of economic losses from poor production practices, that is, affects the increase in the export potential of food products which, in terms of animal welfare, meet the high demands of consumers. In many local communities, particularly in rural areas, the survival of farmers depends on the quality of animal origin products that are marketed, and the quality of these products depends on the health of the animals themselves. High animal welfare standards influence the increase in the quality of products more competitive on the market, more demanded by consumers, and bringing farmers more profit and therefore a better position. A farmer who breeds his animals respecting the high standards of animal welfare will produce quality meat, milk, and eggs, which consumers are eager to buy. The high quality of these products means competitiveness and provides a chance to increase export, which directly affects the opening of new jobs.
The European Union recognizes the importance of animal welfare in terms of food safety, and the development of competitive sustainable agriculture.
The achievement of high standards in the field of animal welfare positively influences strengthening the competitiveness of animal origin products on the domestic and European market, and consequently on sustainable rural development (Media Research Center, 2012).
One of the fundamental principles of EU legislation which concerns the protection of animals is that they are not subject to unnecessary pain or torture. This is reflected in clear regulations concerning the conditions under which domestic animals can be grown, as well as in what conditions they can be transported and in what kinds of farms slaughtered. These rules are constantly updated in accordance with the continuous progress of scientific knowledge and are one of the most rigorous in the world.
When the Treaty of Lisbon entered into force in 2009, it amended the "Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union" and recognized that animals are sensory beings. Article 13 of Chapter II states that:
"In formulating and implementing the development of agriculture, fishing, transport, the internal market, research and technology, as well as the policies relating to the Universe, the European Union and the Member States will, given animals are sensory beings, fully take into account the needs for protecting the welfare of animals, while complying with the legislative or administrative provisions and customs of the Member States relating specifically to religious rites, cultural traditions, and regional heritage".