Environmental enrichment through provision of bedding and maintenance of stable groups reduces but does not entirely eliminate the risk of this
Changes in farming conditions seen in Europe and North America over the past 50 years have led to widespread practices such as dehorning, castration (pigs, calves, sheep, chickens, done through caponisation for the latter), docking (cattle, sheep, pigs) or debeaking. These mutilations are often justified as a means to reduce the risk of illness or injury from other animals (pecking, cannibalism), improve product quality (castration in pigs, cattle and chickens produces more marbled meat with a sensory quality preferred by consumers), or make farm work safer (dehorning for example) or easier. These practices however cause pain to the animals. , 2009).
There are alternatives but this is not always the case, and these alternatives themselves come with drawbacks. Carcasses also need to be checked to verify that the immunisation was effective after vaccination and all boar taint has been removed. As it stands, there has been little documentation of the vaccine’s effects on animal welfare. From this point of view, the aforementioned Cooperl initiative that examines the issue of castration at a supply chain level is interesting.
There are also alternatives to tail docking. Tail docking of dairy cows is an interesting case of a very old, painful practice that was abandoned without any economic or health repercussions after it was demonstrated that there would be no adverse effect to udder cleanliness if it was not done. In pig farming, tail docking prevents tail biting, which is a behavioural disorder. Tail docking is not practiced in organic farming, where animals are reared on bedding. For laying hens, it is possible not to debeak the White Leghorn breed, although there is still a risk of occasional episodes of pecking and cannibalism. However, this application, used in the Netherlands, is not available in France, where the consumer dating service southern Arizona mainly buys brown eggs. Projects (Casdar funding 2 ) involving various stakeholders are being carried out to make the use of these farming prevention factors more popular.
For example, in pig farming, physical castration may be replaced by immuno-castration (a vaccine has been authorised in Europe since 2009) but this technique has met with consumer reluctance towards a vaccine designed to suppress sex hormones
Sector-led initiatives can help improve the situation where there are no alternatives. This is the case for dehorning in cattle which, when practised without analgesia or anaesthesia, is known to be painful. An operational project involving all actors (farmers, veterinarians, technicians, trainers, scientists, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), government) was conducted in France as part of the combined technology network on animal welfare and farming systems. Officially, dehorning was to be done by veterinarians but in practice, since 2011, farmers have been authorised to perform the procedure without any specific training. After taking into account the viewpoints from the various actors, this project led to a consensus between different actors (farmers and veterinarians) to facilitate the implementation of a pain management protocol that includes the use of local anaesthetic. The project also led to the experimental validation of a dehorning protocol (horning done as early as possible, with cauterisation of zones that produce horns at less than one month when horns are still absent), the development of practical guidelines and training methods for those performing the procedure (including farmers), test training sessions and an analysis of changes in farmers practices before and after training. The project actors received government backing and the programme will be gradually rolled out with support from interprofessional and professional training organisations.