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2011 Universities Federation for Animal Welfare
The Old School, Brewhouse Hill, Wheathampstead,
Do farmers and scientists differ in their understanding and assessment of
farm animal welfare?
School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 7RU, UK* Contact for correspondence and requests for reprints: firstname.lastname@example.org
In response to an increased public awareness regarding how livestock are reared, animal welfare scientists have attempted to developnew methods of welfare assessment at the farm level. Furthermore, in recent years they have increasingly moved away from theconventional approach of evaluating the provision of resources necessary to ensure good welfare, and have instead focused on theuse of animal-based measures of welfare. In contrast, it is believed that farmers use mostly resource-based and management-basedmeasures (eg the provision of food, water and housing) when assessing the welfare of their animals. They also seem to be drivenmore by economic and financial concerns than by the welfare of the animals
per se, when it comes to the provision of animal welfare.
Different approaches to the definition and assessment of farm animal welfare were explored in work carried out at NewcastleUniversity as part of the Welfare Quality® project by both social and welfare scientists. Social scientists explored farmers’ percep-tions and understanding of animal welfare, whilst welfare scientists developed animal-based measures of welfare for use in aprototype on-farm welfare monitoring system. Based on two separate surveys, this paper focuses on UK farmers’ perception andunderstanding of animal welfare and their criteria of assessment in contrast with those employed by welfare scientists, using a specificcase study of pigs. Results show that, despite scientists being unaware of the findings from the farmer survey, they produced a set ofmeasures to assess welfare which were very similar to those used by farmers. However, ‘instinctive’ terms used by farmers to describe(positive or negative) animal behaviour did not bear any relation to more objective welfare measures. Compared with conventionalmonitoring systems which focus more on the provision of resources to promote good welfare than on the animal itself, the prototypemonitoring system may be more acceptable to farmers given that it uses similar animal-based measures to assess welfare to thosethey use themselves, and furthermore, the focus is on the animal.
: animal-based measures, animal welfare, farm assurance schemes, pigs, qualitative behaviour assessment, welfare
Hewson 2003). Additionally, at the society level, the defini-
Although ‘animal welfare’ is a widely used term, there is no
tion incorporates the “cultural developments of the societal
agreed definition for it and how it should be measured
view about the relations between man and animals”
(Barnard 2007). There is, however, a consensus amongst
(Carenzi & Verga 2009). Hence, “the term can mean
animal welfare scientists regarding its complexity and
different things to different people” (Hewson 2003).
multi-dimensional nature (eg Duncan & Fraser 1997; Fraser
Scientists examine animal welfare from various individual
1997; Fraser 1999; Scott et al
2001; Sandøe et al
and disciplinary angles (Bock & van Huick 2007), and the
Fraser & Weary 2004; Duncan 2005). The multi-faceted
definition and assessment of welfare often reflects the
issues of the animal welfare concept lie within the nature of
researchers’ background (Carenzi & Verga 2009). For
the animal welfare science as per se
, an inter-disciplinary
example, welfare scientists (throughout this paper welfare
work, which includes (inter alia
) the study of husbandry
scientists refer to natural scientists) examine the concept
and human-animal interaction (Lund et al
2006). It is
from an ‘animal’s point of view’, trying to understand how
actually the link to humans and their understanding of
different livestock production practices affect the well-
animals, especially in relation to feelings, needs and natural
being of animals, whereas social scientists study ‘animal
behaviour, that makes animal welfare a more intricate
welfare from a human point of view and into the concerns
concept. As physical, mental and natural aspects of welfare
and interests of citizens and consumers’ (Bock & van Huick
can sometimes conflict, the concept is also subject to
2007). Yet, the assessment of animal welfare from ‘an
practical and ethical challenges (Buller & Morris 2003;
animal’s point of view’ is subject to debate as most ‘tradi-
Universities Federation for Animal Welfare
Science in the Service of Animal Welfare
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