Happy animals: clarity in animal welfare terminology

(27.08.2020) “Positive welfare” and related terms such as “good welfare”, “happiness” and “good life” are increasingly used in animal welfare science. It highlights the benefits of positive experiences for animals, meaning that animals benefit in their welfare from doing the things they like.

However, the different terms are not always clearly defined or used with the same meaning between researchers. Researchers at Vetmeduni Vienna and BOKU therefore propose a new framework with the aim to harmonize the research on positive animal welfare and talk a common language.

University of Veterinary Medicine (Vetmeduni) Vienna

Positive welfare focuses on ways in which animal welfare science can proactively improve the lives of animals, rather than just avoiding suffering. Following an analysis of the existing literature in this field, the Viennese researchers identified two distinct views: “hedonic positive welfare” when the animals do what they like, and “positive welfare balance” meaning the animal is overall feeling well when considering the good and bad times. “Eudaimonia”, satisfaction with one’s life, is a possible new third view that the researches introduce to animal welfare science.

The Vienna Framework for more structured animal welfare research

In their recently published article in Frontiers in Veterinary Science, the researchers propose a framework to structure the research on positive welfare. “There is a plurality of terms and perspectives in the scientific literature on positive welfare.

To help lay out differences, we propose The Vienna Framework that is applicable across the different views and which helps to more clearly identify these views to other scientists,” says first author Jean-Loup Rault, director of the Institute of Animal Welfare Science at Vetmeduni Vienna.

The individual facets were derived from the existing literature and centred on the question “What are important aspects for positive welfare?” Although the Vienna Framework was developed for research in the field of positive welfare, the researchers believe it could be applied to animal welfare in general.

Flexible framework a new “engine” driving animal welfare research

The Vienna Framework outlines different facets, such as frequency, duration, arousal, context, previous experience, individual differences, providing animals with a sense of agency, and long-term benefit to the animal.

The framework aims to encourage researchers to consider the relevance of these facets for their own research to better compare their research outcomes by clearly stating how their work falls along these views and facets. Furthermore, the researchers explicitly point out that the Vienna Framework is sufficiently flexible to be adapted to individual research questions.

The article “Positive Welfare and the Like: Distinct Views and a Proposed Framework” by Jean-Loup Rault, Sara Hintze, Irene Camerlink and Jason Richard Yee was published in Frontiers in Veterinary Science.

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