Is the term “animal welfare” intended to minimize violence against animals?

The way we think and the words we use are interdependent, and agrifood professionals understand this well: to hide violence against animals, they multiply euphemisms and semantic deviations.

In the 19th century, the murders and the skin so they became slaughterhouses, and on farms today, the Caution it can refer to filing the teeth, as well as cutting off the beak, tail, or live castration. In the general framework of the denial of the suffering inflicted by man on other animals, a concept has gradually invaded the entire discourse: “animal welfare”.

Although swine farming is probably one of the most suffering for the animals concerned, the website of Inaporc, the national swine association, for example, proudly proclaims: “Animal welfare: at the heart of the sector’s concerns”.
The website argues:

“Since breeders are people who are passionate about their animals and a stressed animal will not produce quality meat, every actor in the industry takes great care of the animals’ well-being. »

the welfare movement

The concept of “animal welfare” became visible to the general public from the 1960s onwards, first in the UK. In English it is called animal welfare, welfare meaning in its general sense a “physical and mental state”, whether good or bad: one can without contradiction speak of poor welfare.

Furthermore, welfare since the beginning of the 20th century, it refers more specifically to social assistance in favor of the most vulnerable human beings. I’animal welfare is at the heart of the movement said pensionwhich aims to improve the living conditions of non-human animals, particularly on farms, without, however, jeopardizing the principle of their exploitation.

What is animal welfare? – Chair of Animal Welfare / VetAgro Sup / Directorate General for Food (DGAL) of the Ministry of Agriculture

This move can be considered as a desire to extend to animals in general the guarantee that their minimum needs are met, a principle now commonly accepted for humans.

inanimal welfare animal welfare

The welfare so it differs from welfare, “well-being” in the primary sense of “a general feeling of pleasure, of fulfillment that comes from the full satisfaction of the needs of the body and/or mind”, which can apply to both humans and non-humans. – humans. In English, therefore, the distinct meanings of welfare it’s from welfare apply equally to humans and other animals.

I’animal welfare English was translated as “animal welfare” in French, which broke this beautiful symmetry. The welfare social for humans actually corresponds in French to “protection” (of childhood, etc.) welfare for non-humans, intuitively sends francophones back to the welfare, the extension of human welfare to other animals. In other words, fundamentally positive (we are not talking about “poor well-being”) and hedonic (spas, massages, etc.) the throat is cut.

a misleading term

The official texts define “animal welfare” as a state guaranteed by the satisfaction of five needs, qualified as “freedoms” (absence of hunger, fear, etc.).

Even though restricted, the term “animal welfare” remains misleading, its systematic use seems to imply that respect for the “five freedoms” is guaranteed to most individuals.

The “five freedoms” of animal welfare
The “five freedoms” of animal welfare – Animal welfare chair / VetAgro Sup / illustrations: Élodie Boisgontier

However, for livestock, “animal welfare”, even in its official definition, is only guaranteed in a minority of cases. It is thus obvious that the “freedom of expression of the normal behavior of their species” (fifth freedom) is not respected for animals living on intensive farms (estimated at 80% of animals slaughtered in France).

Even today, tail docking and live castration of pigs are legal or tolerated by the state (not to mention the conditions of slaughter), while the “absence of pain” is recognized as the 4th freedom that defines the good – being an animal. .

“animal malaise”, more appropriate to designate these issues

The expression “animal welfare” thus has two misleading implications for the general public: on the one hand, its stakes seem to cover auxiliary, “comfort” points, not problems of acute suffering (when “welfare is interpreted in its usual hedonistic sense.) On the other hand, it implies that the living conditions of most farm animals, for which we constantly speak of “welfare”, would at least meet their primary needs.

These misunderstandings would be avoided by using the expression “animal malaise” (in the sense of “physical and mental suffering”) to refer generally to animal protection problems. When we agree to speak of “well-being”, as the agricultural sectors have been doing for decades, it seems difficult to refuse “discontent” to describe this real lack of “well-being” that exists among the majority of livestock .

For animalist movements, the interest of the expression “animal malaise” is also to imply a conscious feeling, rather than the terms pain and Suffering (A complaint or a rule can also “suffer”… a delay or an exception).

The use of “animal welfare” and the fact of limiting the use of “animal welfare” to its intuitive meaning of “feeling of pleasure and fulfilment” would also make it possible to clearly distinguish, naming them from “negative” measures to ” reduce animal welfare” that limit psychological and physical suffering, “positive” measures aimed at increasing “animal welfare”.

After being neglected for a long time, scientific research focused on promoting positive emotions is now booming, referred to as positive well-being. True “animal welfare” presupposes not only the absence of discomfort, but also the occurrence of pleasant life experiences.

Stop covering up the violence

Restricting, but not abandoning, the use of “animal welfare” would prevent its use in order to minimize violence. To persist in using that expression to speak indiscriminately of ending mutilation and enriching the environment seems to us to undermine the cause we must defend.

We are not proposing to change the way all players on this field speak overnight. But animal associations could play a lexical prescriber role in this case. Neglecting this issue by endorsing terms that go against common sense and harm animals is not insignificant.

This analysis was written by Marie-Claude Marsolier, director of genetic research at the National Museum of Natural History (with input from Frédéric Mesguich, PhD in chemistry specializing in materials for energy and founder of the Animalist Blogotheque).
The original article was published on the website of The conversation.

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