Evaluating the Health of Animal Species Essay

  • Length: 8 pages
  • Sources: 8
  • Subject: Environmental Science
  • Type: Essay
  • Paper: #67310078

Excerpt from Essay :

Welfare in Captive Wild Animals

The Holy Bible gets the relationship between humankind and wild animals out of the way early on in Genesis 1:26 when God said, "Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." Humanity clearly took this divine gift seriously, and the relationship between humankind and wild animals has been largely one-sided since people climbed to the top of the food chain. Since the second half of the 20th century, though, there have been growing calls for improving the manner in which humans treat animals in general and wild animals maintained in captivity in particular. The recent closure of Ringling and Barnum and Bailey's "Greatest Show on Earth" due to protests over the mistreatment of their elephants and the discontinuance of the use of killer whales in performances at Sea World are two recent high-profile examples of these trends. Nevertheless, captive breeding and species survival programs represent the last best chance for many endangered species today. Moreover, scientists continue to rely on knockout mice and rats and other species to evaluate the efficacy of new drugs, so it is clear that wild animals will continue to be kept in captivity for the foreseeable future. This outcome calls into question how best to assess the welfare of captive wild animals across various animal industries such as farming and laboratory settings, and an evaluation of the relevance of using these assessment methods for the welfare of wild animals maintained in zoological and pet contexts. Finally, a summary of the research and important findings concerning the assessment of welfare in captive wild animals are provided in the conclusion.

Review and Analysis

Current available animal welfare assessment methods used across various animal industries

While it is not possible to fully comprehend how animals feel, they do engage in certain behaviors that can help assess their welfare (Sejian and Laktritz 2011). In this context, animal welfare is defined by the scientific community as "the ability of an animal to cope physiologically, behaviorally, cognitively and emotionally with its physiochemical and social life environment" (Seijan and Laktriz 2001, p. 301). Ethical considerations aside, given the economic importance of animals to human society, it is not surprising that there has been growing interest in identify optimal approaches to assessing their welfare.

Although there is no universally accepted method for assessing animal welfare using these behavioral and other clues, there are three general approaches that are used today as follows: 1) naturalistic; 2) functional; and 3) subjective (Sejian and Lakritz 2011). In addition, there are four indicators that reflect the welfare status of farm animals: 1) behavioral; 2) physical; 3) physiological; and 4) production oriented (Sejian and Lakritz 2011). At present, these three general approaches and four indicators are used in various ways by different producers (Sejian and Lakritz 2011).

Notwithstanding the lack of a universally accepted method, assessing the welfare of farm animals has become far more standardized in recent years and the so-called "five freedoms" are used to evaluate whether farm animals live in a stress-free environment as follows:

1. Freedom from hunger, thirst or malnutrition;

2. Freedom from thermal or physical distress;

3. Freedom from disease or injury;

4. Freedom from fear; and,

5. Freedom to express most normal behavior (Sejian and Laktriz 2011, p. 302).

The efficacy of these five fundamental freedoms in promoting the welfare of farm animals is gauged by their respective production levels. With respect to cows, for example, Sejian and Lakritz (2011, p. 302) characterize the general concepts of animal welfare that involve adaptations to normal behavior and physiology that contribute to improved animal health and productivity as shown in Figure 1 below.

Figure 1. General concept of farm animal welfare

Source: Sejian and Lakritz, 2011, p. 302

The majority of laboratories in the United States must conform to two primary sources that mandate animal welfare today: 1) the Laboratory Animal Welfare Act of 1966 (AWA) and 2) the Public Health Service Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (PHS Policy) (Huerkamp 2016). The AWA was originally focused primarily on canine species in response to increased dog trafficking in the U.S., with only tangential reference to other species. According to Carbone (2004, p. 89), though, "The 1980s expansion of the Animal Welfare Act into the research laboratory, and calls for inclusion of rats and mice under its coverage, required the development of philosophical and political movements focused on animal rights." Likewise, the PHS Policy codified federal policies concerning the treatment of most types of laboratory animals used in the U.S. in 1985. According to the National Institutes of Health's PHS Policy, institutions receiving federal funding are required to "establish and maintain proper measures to ensure the appropriate care and use of all animals involved in research, research training, and biological testing activities" (PHS Policy, 2015, p. 3).

The assessment of animal welfare in laboratory settings, however, is a far more subjective and difficult analysis compared to farm animals, however, that includes a consideration concerning the potential benefits of using the experimental animals. For example, Carbone (2004) reports that despite a general consensus in the scientific community that laboratory animals are justifiable and ethically permissible, there have also been growing calls for some acceptable method for assessing laboratory animal welfare that also includes the amount of suffering that these animals will experience. In this regard, Carbone (2004, p. 57) advocates the use of a three-dimensional decision model that includes "potential benefits (the value of the hoped-for outcome), likelihood of achieving those benefits in a particular laboratory or experiment, and animal suffering represented on its three axes."

Assessing laboratory animal suffering is an enormously challenging enterprise, though, and the potential for researcher bias to influence this type of subject analysis is severe. After all, it is reasonable to suggest that many if not most research scientists believe that the suffering experienced by laboratory animals -- even severe suffering -- justifies their end, but it is clear that laboratory animals were on the short end of the stick compared to welfare assessment methods for farm animals whose five freedoms make their lives sound like paradise compared to knockout rats, for example. In response to the increased use of laboratory animals and the growing recognition of the suffering they endure, a number of sanctuaries have sprung up across the country that provide life-long "forever home" rehabilitative care for chimpanzees, rabbits, pigeons and other former laboratory animals -- except mice and rats (Spallone 2014).

Moreover, although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has mandated that scientific researchers receiving federal funding provide assessments concerning the…

Sources Used in Documents:


Sejian, V and Lakritz, J (2011, August), "Assessment Methods and Indicators of Animal Welfare." Asian Journal of Animal and Veterinary Advances, vol 6, no. 4, pp. 301-315.

Spallone, C (2014, April 18). "Rescue groups helping former lab animals." One Green Planet. [online] available: http://www.onegreenplanet.org/animalsandnature/5-awesome-rescue-groups-helping-former-lab-animals/.

Wise, SM (2000). Rattling the Cage: Toward Legal Rights for Animals. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Books.

Yarri, D (2005). The Ethics of Animal Experimentation: A Critical Analysis and Constructive Christian Proposal. New York: Oxford University Press.

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