Prioritisation of animal welfare issues in the UK using expert consensus

Fiona Rioja Lang, Heather Bacon, Melanie Connor, Cathy Dwyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Background The welfare of all animals under human management is an area of consistent public concern, but strategies to improve welfare may vary across species. In this study, expert consensus, using a modified Delphi approach, was used to prioritise welfare issues of farmed and companion animals in the UK.
Methods The study involved 117 experts, divided between eight species groups. Experts were recruited from a broad range of disciplines. Two rounds of online surveys were conducted using the Online Survey tool, and the final round was an in-person workshop with a subsection of experts (n=21). The experts agreed that welfare issues should be ranked considering three categories: i) severity, ii) duration, and iii) perceived prevalence.
Results A comprehensive list of welfare issues was generated for each species by discussion boards (cats, rabbits, horses) or by literature review (dogs, pigs, poultry, cattle and small ruminants). In the first online survey the experts scored each welfare issue using the three categories (severity, duration, prevalence), on a 6-point Likert scale, where 1 = never/none, and 6 = always/high. Lists of welfare issues were reduced to 25-59% of the total number, by determining mean ranks from expert ratings. In round 2, experts were asked whether they agreed or disagreed to the rankings. In the final stage, during the workshop, the top-ranking welfare issues for animals were determined for individual animals (considering the greatest severity and duration, in the expert’s opinion) and for perceived prevalence.
Conclusions Overall, prioritised welfare issues included: Lack of knowledge of welfare needs, social behaviour issues, problem behaviours, inappropriate diet and environment, lack of veterinary care, consequences from breeding decisions, poor pain management, delayed euthanasia, and chronic ill health. The Delphi process resulted in consensus on the most significant welfare challenges of animals in the UK and can help to guide future research and education priority decisions.

Original languageEnglish
JournalVeterinary Record
Early online date5 Jul 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 Jul 2020

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Animal welfare
  • Delphi method
  • Farm animals
  • Dogs
  • Cats
  • Horses
  • Rabbits


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