SPEAKER: As you can see, we've moved indoors. We're at the Cornell all sheep barns. And we're now indoors, which is appropriate for our next topic, which is indoor agriculture.
In the last 50 years or so, we've been moving animals indoors more and more. And in most cases, we've gone to what we call confinement housing, in certain situations. The facility here is still an open barn, where we're providing the animals with shelter, a way to get out of the worst weather, provide their feed indoors so that the feed stays dry, but they still are subject to regular temperature changes, insects, flies, and so forth.
One of the advantages of confinement rearing is that we can control many more variables. We can keep the temperature ideal. We can keep the humidity ideal. We have to deal with air quality. We'll talk about that a little bit later.
But with that does come a greater responsibility. We need to be much more fully responsible for the animals. And, of course, sheep are an example of an animal that has minimal needs. They're still able to function quite well in the wild. So they have not been one of the animals that we've done a lot of confinement.
But one of the issues that then raises, of bringing animals in and out versus outside, is this issue of stress. And one of the things that we see when we bring the animals in is that we cut down on their stress.
Again, these are prey animals. And so they normally worry about predators. Once they've gotten used to living indoors, they realize that they don't have to worry about predators. And so they're able to function actually better indoors.
Production goes up. We keep the temperature ideal. We give them the ideal feed. They're not eating food outside where they can get sick, pick up diseases from wild plants and from wild animals. And so there are many benefits. But again, the responsibilities increase.
Now one of the things that has come out of all of this is one of the criteria-- and not the only one, but one of the major criteria-- for judging the animal welfare status is this question of stress. And, again, indoors we cut down the stress. And what we have found is that production variables tend to go up. And so one of the quick measures of good animal welfare is that, in fact, you maintain production.
Now again, part of that is comparative. You know what the animals are doing normally. If something is going wrong indoors, production generally goes down. So if we can keep production up, we can maintain-- know that we're doing a good job on maintaining our animal welfare.
Again, indoor agriculture does not generally have the same visual positiveness of thinking about animals roaming around free on the farm. And so we tend to think negatively of it. But from the point of view of the animal, it may, in fact, be favorable.
So one of the issues is this sort of natural tendency of humans to think of things anthropomorphically. What would we like? How would we feel more comfortable?
But the fact is is that most of us spend most of our life indoors. We are also outdoor animals. And we've created housing. We've created heating systems and air conditioning systems. Because, in fact, most of us prefer to spend a big part of our day in that kind of conditions. That's all we've done for the animals.
Now one of the other things in talking about stress that we need to think about is, in evaluating production agriculture, is to not always think in terms of house averages or pen averages. But we need to look at the individual animal. And so one of the changes that some of the modern animal welfare folks are bringing is that we need to look at the production of each individual animal. And we have to make sure that each animal is optimized. And I'll come back and talk about that a little later.
Another point I'd like to make is to discuss the issues of pain and suffering. Pain is a feeling that we get when something hurts us. And we know that we feel pain. We know that some animals feel pain. But it is not clear which animals don't feel pain.
Right now there's a great faith in the scientific literature about whether fish feel pain. As somebody who works a lot with fish, I've been following this argument. And I must admit, again as a non expert, but as somebody trying to understand whether fish need to be addressed from an animal welfare point of view or not, we don't know if they experience pain yet.
If they do, some of our criteria for animal welfare will have to be strengthened. If they don't feel pain, probably we don't need to make as-- the same kind of special effort to deal with issues of the time of capture and slaughter.
A more complex concept related to pain is the concept of suffering. We know that as humans, we can suffer. That is more than pain in that we're integrating pain over time both past and anticipation of the future. We're thinking about what this all means and worrying about the consequences of the pain and any consequences of any injury that might also be part of this. That's a very complex set of understandings.
We believe that some of the animals do have some of these kinds of concepts. Again, working with the behaviorist, we're beginning to learn what some of these things are. But these are not something that necessarily has to be taken into account with all animals.
And so, again, in judging our animal welfare, we have to use a higher standard if we can establish that an animal suffers, while we still need to have a good standard, but not quite as intensively carried out, in terms of various things we need to do, for those animals who can't suffer. And that sort of also deals with the general question of behavior, which is a specialty field.
It is a field that is currently developing and is one for which we're learning a lot of new things about animals. And we'll have to integrate them in the future in our animal welfare judgments. But in the meantime, I hope that people will keep an open mind about judging what is natural behavior, what is necessary behavior, what is appropriate behavior, what is stressful behavior-- all the different nuances of behavior as we try to evaluate improve animal welfare.
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Animal welfare is a controversial topic in modern agriculture. Join Joe Regenstein as he examines the ethical issues involved with the production of food and fiber in modern agriculture.
This video is part 3 of 9 in the Animal Welfare series.