Animal Production Science Animal Production Science Society
Food, fibre and pharmaceuticals from animals
REVIEW (Open Access)

Public concerns about dairy-cow welfare: how should the industry respond?

D. M. Weary A B and M. A. G. von Keyserlingk A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Animal Welfare Program, Faculty of Land and Food Systems, University of British Columbia, 2357 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z4, Canada.

B Corresponding author. Email: danweary@mail.ubc.ca

Animal Production Science 57(7) 1201-1209 https://doi.org/10.1071/AN16680
Submitted: 18 October 2016  Accepted: 25 January 2017   Published: 28 February 2017

Abstract

Common practices on dairy farms have fallen out of step with public values, such that the dairy industry has now become a target for public criticism. In the present paper, we describe some of the forces that have led to the current situation, and various potential methods to rectify the situation. One approach is to shield industry practices from public scrutiny, for example, by using ‘ag-gag’ legislation to stem the flow of videos exposing contentious practices. Another is to educate members of the public so that they better understand the nature of these practices and the reasons that they are used on farms. The literature we reviewed indicated that neither of these approaches is likely to be successful. Instead, we suggest that the dairy industry needs to develop methods of meaningful two-way engagement with concerned citizens, including research using social-science methods to document the values of different stakeholders and examine approaches to resolving conflicts. We also reviewed how biological research can help resolve issues, for example, by developing rearing systems that address public concerns around freedom of movement and social contact without putting animals at an increased risk of disease. We end with a discussion of how policy efforts by the dairy industry can be used to ensure compliance with commonly accepted standards, and more ambitiously, develop a common vision of dairying that positions the industry as a leader in animal welfare.

Additional keywords: animal welfare, assurance, audit, milk, survey, trust.


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