If you didn’t already give much thought to it, your welfare as a human could be affected at any moment by various aspects of your everyday life. One of our main welfare concerns is our health and if we’re suffering from pains, aches, or even the common cold. Besides our health, our social lives also affect how we feel daily.
Was your day stressful, do you feel lonely, how is your sleeping pattern, or your living arrangements? These are some of the social aspects that can affect us. To improve our welfare as humans, we need to be healthy, social, fit, financially secure, and safe to live our best lives. Only when these are improved then can we truly feel better.
In the same way that humans need these things, animal welfare is important. Animal welfare includes both mental and physical state. Any part of the day or life of an animal can be affected by these and the end results can either be bad or really good.
For most animals, their welfare doesn’t need to be static. In essence, the welfare of an animal can change depending on experiences and in some instances, they tend to have really long-term effects. Some animals are affected in negative and positive ways. Some of the contributing factors are if they were regularly walked or fed a healthy diet.
Whenever dogs are left at home alone, they can suffer in negative ways.
For quite some time, animal welfare and veterinary sciences have found that the physical states of animals are heavily dependent on the way injuries are treated, their risk of contracting diseases, and even ensuring that they have access to clean water, food and a safe space.
Sally Austin, a Brisbane-based health expert, notes the importance that the physical state is critical in surviving. “There has been an increased interest in the mental state in recent years, but even for animals, their physical states can be quite similar to humans. Their basic needs are much like ours, so it’s important to treat them as if they were humans at times.”
This just simply means that more attention is paid to the stress responses, bodily conditions, biological functions and behaviours.
Animal welfare has progressed to such a high level that the mental states of animals are now being considered. This includes how they feel as well as what they like and don’t like. The mental state of an animal is just as important as the physical state.
The affective state consists of both positive and negative experiences. Some of these include contentment, comfort, fear, pain, or even frustration. Animals are affected by how their physical body feels and functions. As such, animals with either physical injuries or diseases will experience pain or fear if predators are nearby.
Peter Wilesmith, a bookkeeper by trade but who also volunteers with animals in his spare time, says that learning to understand that animals are incredibly complex creatures is something all of us need to gain insight into. “You can often see from the animal’s physical state what their mental state is probably like. They truly do feel and think like us humans at times, and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t treat them in the same ways we would treat ourselves if something wasn’t mentally quite right.”
When they’re surrounded by family members or loved ones, they will feel contentment. However, it is rather difficult to truly determine how animals feel. Hence, scientists are now trying to use indirect measurements to determine how they feel and what positively impacts their overall welfare.
Another huge part of welfare is biology. This is often considered natural living and every species tends to have different innate behaviours that are displayed when certain circumstances arise. Whenever animals are prevented from expressing these behaviours, they can eventually develop damaging behaviours such as frustration.
When animals live in enough space or an enriched environment, they are given the opportunity to express their true self and cultivate good welfare. With that said, it should be noted that there are also negative aspects such as starvation, disease, and even predator problems.
In the past, animal welfare focused heavily on removing the negative experiences that animals faced. Some of these included pain, hunger, and even thirst. Within recent years, cultivating a positive environment is being understood more and more in society.
Australian roofing expert Richard Gabriel has had to do a number of roofing jobs at various animal shelters, and notes that there seems to be a growing conscience around boosting animal’s welfare. “Normally people would build small little habitats for these critters, but it’s quite good to see that people are caring a lot more for these animals. They deserve the same things that we can give to ourselves.”
These positive experiences such as rewards, contentment, satiety, playfulness, curiosity, and others can be significantly improved when they have the chance to interact with rewarding behaviours. In essence, positive welfare can simply be a better quality of life.
However, it should be noted that a better quality of life simply means that it’s a life that an animal would love to continue living because it was worth it. For better words, animals need to experience a good life just like humans do. As such, the negative concept of a good life should be avoided for the sake of animal welfare.