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Script 88.5

Notes to broadcasters

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All animals have basic needs, like food and water and good housing. But animals also have a need to be treated well. This includes living in a comfortable environment, being with other animals, and avoiding situations which create stress for the animal.

When animals receive proper care, this has tremendous benefits for the owner. Well-treated domestic livestock give more milk, grow larger, and have healthier offspring. The quality of their meat is better.

This script introduces some of the basic concepts of animal welfare, and uses a simple story of a man, his son and their cow to illustrate these concepts.

The concern about the importance of animal welfare has been expanding rapidly at the international level. The World Organisation for Animal Health is working to establish international standards for animal welfare. More information can be obtained from their website at http://www.oie.int/eng/bien_etre/en_introduction.htm.

This script is a two-host conversation. The hosts talk about animal welfare and tell a fictional story. There are several ways to use this script. You could simply adapt the script to your situation by changing the details of the story. You could air the adapted script, then have a roundtable discussion on animal welfare. Panelists might include local farmers, animal specialists from extension services, livestock breeders, and others. You might also choose to expand the story and create a mini-drama, based on the animal welfare issues talked about in the script.

Script

Host 1:
Good morning and welcome to (name of program or radio station). My name is ________.

Host 2:
And I am ________. Welcome to today’s program on animal welfare.

Host 1:
We depend on domestic animals – but they depend on us too. So, ensuring the well-being of our animals makes good sense and is also good for the owner.

Host 2:
That’s true. Let’s talk about animal welfare. What do animals need in order to grow well, to give milk or to produce healthy offspring? What affects their well-being? Is it possible that sometimes we might do things that cause more stress than an animal can cope with?

Host 1:
Good questions. We use animals for transportation, to pull a plough or cart, for milk, meat and many other things. Therefore, the welfare of animals is important to their owners. If handled poorly, an animal will be less productive, have lower value and cost the farmer more money.

Host 2:
So good animal welfare pays. When animals are mistreated, neglected or exposed to a poor environment, it can be costly for the owner. But we hear stories that it happens all the time. Why?

Host 1:
Let’s listen to the story of a farmer who had a few animals, and maybe we can find out.

Host 2:
A farmer had a few animals on his small piece of land. There were a few sheep and goats, and one cow that he used for milk. His son sometimes helped out with the animals. However, the man noticed that on days when the son helped, the cow seemed more nervous. She wouldn’t eat as readily and was not as easy to handle. Then one day she also had a limp.

Host 1:
What do you think was happening? Do you have any ideas?

Host 2:
Before we get back to our story, let’s talk more about animal welfare. How can we describe poor animal welfare? Perhaps, it is not much different than what happens to humans when we are under severe stress.

Host 1:
That’s right. When we are afraid or worried or maybe even mistreated by others, we act differently. When we don’t eat or drink properly, our health deteriorates. When we are injured, perhaps we can’t work as well as usual, or we might develop an infection.

Host 2:
The same happens with animals. If an animal can’t manage the stress in its environment, it simply won’t do as well. It may grow more slowly and not reach the same size as other animals, give less milk, become lame, or get sick.

Host 1:
Some animals are also more sensitive than others. This doesn’t just refer to being more susceptible to physical stresses and injury, but also to problems in other areas such as health, reproduction or an animal’s mental state.

Host 2:
But there are always clues to an animal’s welfare. Think about the following signs:

  • animal does not eat or drink enough
  • animal looks unhealthy, perhaps glassy-eyed, losing hair, with a nasal discharge
  • animal doesn’t reproduce or it loses its offspring at birth
  • animal does strange repeated behaviours like biting bars, or licking itself repeatedly
  • animal is not growing well for its age
  • animal is lame or inactive and avoids interacting with other animals
  • animal is nervous around people or other animals

Host 1:
These could be symptoms that the animal is being mistreated or has not adapted well to its environment. There are many other examples of these kinds of symptoms. You may have seen some or all of these clues, perhaps in a neighbour’s animals, or even your own. But some symptoms can also be more subtle and require careful observation. How can we do that?One way is that, instead of focusing only on wherewemight want the cow to go, perhaps it would help to understandwhyshe doesn’t want to go there.

Host 1:
Don’t forget that domesticated animals are living in a human environment. Whether their welfare is poor because they are being mistreated, because of the poor conditions in which they live, or because their basic needs are not being properly met, it is still the owner or handler who has to figure out how to fix the problem. Good animal care will benefit you and your family in the end.

Host 2:
So, good animal welfare is important to the animal itself. Poor animal welfare has other kinds of consequences.

Host 1:
When stressed animals are slaughtered, the quality of the meat is poorer, resulting in less meat yield and poorer cooking quality. Often, the meat doesn’t keep as well either.Another cost of poor animal welfare is that stressed animals usually have more problems with pregnancy and birth, yielding fewer healthy offspring.

There has also been some very interesting scientific research showing that people who treat animals poorly are more likely to treat people poorly as well. Lastly, mistreating animals is usually contrary to religious principles and the expectations of community elders.

Host 2:
So, what is it that animals need in order to do well? One way to describe an animal’s basic needs is in terms of what to avoid, or what the animal should be free from.

Host 1:
The five freedoms are:

  • Freedom from thirst, hunger and malnutrition by ensuring ready access to fresh water and a diet that maintains full health and vigor.
  • Freedom from discomfort by providing a suitable environment, including shelter and a comfortable resting area.
  • Freedom from pain, injury and disease by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment.
  • Freedom to express normal behavior by providing enough space, proper facilities, and company of the animal’s own kind.
  • Freedom from fear and distress by ensuring conditions that avoid mental suffering.

  • Host 2:
    These are basic needs.If they aren’t taken care of, we can’t expect animals to perform as well as they could. And that is not good for the owner.

    Host 1:
    Now let’s get back to our story of the man and his cow. One day, the owner didn’t have to go into town. So he decided to watch what his son was doing. Everything looked okay. Then at feeding time, he noticed his son putting a bit of grain and vegetable cuttings in a far corner of the shelter, which was darkly shaded. The cow didn’t immediately go there, so his son picked up a bar and hit the cow on the leg to force her into the dark corner.

    Host 2:
    Wisely, the owner stepped in. He quickly explained to his son that a cow will normally be cautious about entering a dark place where it can’t see as well. It might be a better choice to move the feed, provide more light, or just give the cow time to feed on her own.

    Host 1:
    It also turned out that, in the dark corner, there was a sharp edge sticking out from the wall which had injured the cow’s leg. Together the man and his son fixed the wall and moved the feeding position. Afterwards, the cow was fine.

    Host 2:
    Remember: good animal welfare does not have to cost money. In fact, it often saves money by preventing costly losses. In the end, an animal that is well cared for is going to perform better, grow faster, produce better quality products, be easier to handle, and be more enjoyable to own.

    Host 1:
    This is very true. An animal in a good state of welfare is more valuable to you. Animal welfare is everybody’s responsibility.

    Host 2:
    This is (name of host), saying goodbye for now.

    Host 1:
    And this is (name of host). Goodbye.

    Acknowledgements

    Contributed by: David Trus, Professional Agrologist, Ontario Institute of Agrologists. David also coordinates animal welfare issues for the Department of Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada.