UK supermarket tests app to measure emotional well-being of farm animals

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A UK supermarket is testing an app that will be used to assess and record the emotional well-being of animals on the 1,800 farms producing livestock for the chain.

“At Waitrose, we put wellness first. But we always want to do better, which is why we are testing an app to measure how farm animals feel, ”Waitrose and Partners announced on its website.

The supermarket chain, which has 335 stores across the UK, said the technology is designed to help them understand and recognize how animal behavior is linked to emotional well-being.

“Ultimately, the data will improve their quality of life and raise standards of well-being across the UK.”

Françoise Wemelsfelder, senior scientist and researcher at Scotland’s Rural College who developed the app, said good physical health was vital for good well-being, but there was also a clear consensus within the animal welfare scientific community that factors such as pleasure, contentment and positive arousal play an equally vital role in ensuring that an animal has a good life.

“It is essential that we recognize farm animals as sentient creatures capable of experiencing a range of positive emotions and experiences,” he said.

Trained welfare assessors visiting 1,800 Waitrose farms will use the app to record how animals express their emotions through behaviors such as relaxation, tension, play or anxiety.

“This is a huge development for the industry as it is the first time that a retailer has explored welfare measures based on the concept of an animal’s freedom to express positive emotions,” said James Bailey, Executive Director of Waitrose.

“In some countries, farm animals continue to be viewed as food production systems that must be managed. This is wrong and for the UK to maintain its leadership position in agricultural standards it is essential that we recognize farm animals as sentient creatures capable of experiencing a range of positive emotions and experiences.

The launch of the app, which Waitrose licensed for exclusive testing and development for two years, marked the start of Waitrose’s 10-year farming strategy, the company said.

“Waitrose is currently the holder of the Compassion in World Farming award for ‘best retailer’ in Europe, winning it three times in a row. “

HOW THE APPLICATION WORKS

There are currently six versions for different species: dairy cows, veal calves, pigs, laying hens, chickens and ducks. Others will follow.

Farmers and producers from each of these unique supply chains worked together to find common terms to describe the emotions of individual species.

Animals are observed and scored on the individual terms that have been created for that specific species.

Each term has a negative to positive sliding scale that allows raters to capture the condition of the animal they are observing.

Once scoring is complete, the assessors submit the data, which is integrated with data from other operations. It is this larger model that is used to assess quality of life.

Source: Waitrose and partners


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