Researchers at Scotland’s Rural College led a critical review of the literature on positive animal welfare – a concept which has developed over the last decade – to determine what it adds to the overall study of animal welfare.
Positive animal welfare (PAW) is thought to have come about as a response to there being too much of a focus on avoiding negatives in animal welfare science.
The paper What Is so Positive about Positive Animal Welfare?, published in the journal animals, identified the main features of PAW as positive emotions, quality of life and happiness.
Professor Alistair Lawrence, from SRUC and the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute, said: “We wanted to understand what the PAW themes are and what they add to the other literature on animal welfare.
“What we found was that some of the features of PAW, such as positive emotions, are not new while others – for example animal happiness, are new in the sense they were introduced through PAW.
“Overall the main contribution of PAW is to emphasise the possibility that animals can live positive lives, which has significant potential to raise our aspirations for animal welfare standards.”
Prof Lawrence, who wrote the paper with Belinda Vigors, a social scientist at SRUC, and Peter Sandøe of the University of Copenhagen, added: “It is possible to argue that as we add information on the capacity of animals to experience positive lives, it raises the moral intensity of how we should treat animals – in other words, PAW could be transformative to human-animal interactions, including in agriculture.”
The research was funded as part of the Scottish Government’s Rural and Environment Science and Analytical Services strategic research programme.