Are we talking too much about “animal welfare”?

Our thinking and our words are mutually dependent, and agricultural professionals have understood this well: to cover up violence against animals, they multiply euphemisms and semantic distractions.

in the 19thand century, that murders and the pushes have become like this slaughterhousesand in farms today that Care can refer to filing the teeth as well as cutting the beak, cutting the tail, or being castrated alive. In the general framework of denial of the suffering that humans inflict on other animals, a term has gradually crept into all discourses: “animal welfare”.

For example, while pig farming is among those likely to cause the most harm to affected animals, the website of Inaporc, the national pork association, proudly proclaims: “Animal welfare: at the heart of the sector’s concerns”. The site argues:

“Because breeders are people who are passionate about their animals and a stressed animal is not going to produce quality meat,[anyplayerintheindustryisveryconcernedaboutthewelfareofanimals»[prendgrandsoindubien-êtredesanimaux»[kümmertsichjederAkteurinderBranchesehrumdasWohlergehenderTiere»[prendgrandsoindubien-êtredesanimaux »

The Welfare Movement

The term ‘animal welfare’ first became visible to the general public in the UK from the 1960s. That’s what it’s called in English animal welfare, welfare meaning in the general sense a “physical and mental state”, whether good or bad: one can speak of it without contradiction bad welfare.

Additionally, welfare refers more precisely to the beginning of the XXand Century on social welfare for the most vulnerable people. L’animal welfare is at the center of this movement animal rights activistsaimed at improving the living conditions of non-human animals, particularly on farms, without however calling into question the principle of their exploitation.

This movement can be viewed as a desire to extend the guarantee that their minimum needs are met to animals in general, a principle now generally accepted for humans.

Of’animal welfare animal welfare

that welfare thus differs from wellbeing, “well-being” in the primary sense of “general feeling of joy, fulfillment that comes from the full gratification of the needs of the body and/or mind”, which is likely to apply to both humans and non-humans. – People. In English, therefore, the different meanings of welfare and from wellbeing apply equally to humans and other animals.

L’animal welfare English was translated as “animal welfare” in French, breaking that beautiful symmetry. that welfare In French, social for people actually corresponds to “protection” (of childhood etc.) or “social assistance”, while “animal protection” is intended to express the generalization of welfare social to non-humans, French speakers intuitively refers to the wellbeing, to extend human welfare to other animals. So to fundamentally positive ideas (we are not talking about “poor well-being” here) and hedonic ones (wellness, massages, etc.), regardless of animal welfare measures as brutal as smashing in the skull (“stunning”) before the throat is cut. .

A misleading term

Official texts define “animal welfare” as a state ensured by the satisfaction of five needs called “freedoms” (absence of hunger, fear, etc.).

Even if so limited, the term “animal welfare” remains misleading, since its systematic use seems to imply that respect for the “five freedoms” is guaranteed to the majority of people.

In the case of livestock, however, “animal welfare” even in its official definition is only guaranteed in a few cases. It is therefore evident that the “freedom of expression of the normal behavior of their species” (fifth freedom) for animals living on intensive farms (an estimated 80% of animals slaughtered in France) is not respected.

Even today, tail docking and live castration of pigs are legal or tolerated by the state (not to mention the slaughter conditions), while “freedom from pain” is the 4thand Freedom defines animal welfare…

“Animal Discomfort” is a better way to name these problems

The phrase “animal welfare” therefore has two misleading implications for the general public: on the one hand, it seems to be about ancillary issues of “comfort” rather than issues of acute suffering (if “animal welfare is interpreted in its usual hedonistic sense). On the other hand, it suggests it is that the living conditions of most livestock that we constantly talk about “well-being” would at least meet their primary needs.

These misunderstandings would be prevented if the term “animal malaise” (in the sense of “physical and mental suffering”) were used to refer generally to the problem of animal welfare. If we have agreed to speak of “well-being” as the agricultural sector has for decades, it seems difficult to dismiss “disease” to describe this real lack of “well-being” that exists in the majority of livestock.

For animal movements, the interest of the expression “animal malaise” also lies in implying a conscious feeling, better than the terms pain and To suffer (A claim or rule can also “suffer”… a delay or an exception).

Using “animal welfare” and restricting the use of “animal welfare” to its intuitive meaning of “pleasure and fulfillment” would also allow for a clear delineation of “negative” measures by appropriate naming “reduction of animal welfare” that involve psychological and physical stress limit, “positive” measures to increase “animal welfare”.

Long neglected, scientific research into promoting positive emotions is now booming positive welfare. True “animal welfare” requires not only the absence of ailments, but also the occurrence of pleasant life experiences.

Stop covering up the violence

Limiting, without giving up, the use of “animal welfare” would avoid their use for the purpose of minimizing violence. To continue using this expression to talk indiscriminately about stopping mutilation and enriching the living environment seems to us to undermine the cause we should be defending.

We are not proposing to change the way everyone speaks in this field overnight. But animal associations could play a role as lexical prescribers in this case. Neglecting this issue by promoting terms that run counter to common sense and are harmful to animals is not insignificant.


Frédéric Mesguich, Doctor of Chemistry specializing in Energy Materials, author of the blog Questions Décomposent and founder of the Animaliste Blogothèque, contributed to the writing of this article.

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