Comparing the welfare needs of poultry, pigs, fish and humans

Comparing welfare across species

Would it be possible to compare animal welfare across species? I wrote a paper on this subject some time ago (Bracke, 2006). In that paper I made a tentative welfare comparison between conventional farming systems for cattle, pigs, laying hens and broilers. This suggested it may be possible to make transspecies comparisons of animal welfare. It remained unclear, however, whether welfare could be compared across an even wider range of species. For this purpose I constructed a tentative table including fish and people. The table below lists the welfare needs of laying hens, pigs, Atlantic salmon and humans in a single hierarchy. It takes the welfare needs as described in Bracke et al. (1999c) as a starting point. This table suggests that it is possible to organise the welfare aspects of divergent species into a single hierarchy. This is not only true for farmed species like pigs, poultry and fish. Most notably, it also seems to be suitable to specify human welfare as well.


Bracke, M.B.M., 2006. Providing cross-species comparisons of animal welfare with a scientific basis. Netherlands Journal of Agricultural Science, 54, 61-75.

Bracke, M.B.M, Spruijt, B.M. and Metz, J.H.M. 1999. Overall welfare reviewed. Part 3: Welfare assessment based on needs and supported by expert opinion. Netherlands Journal of Agricultural Science 47: 307-322.

De Mol., R.M., W.G.P. Schouten, E. Evers, H. Drost, H.W.J. Houwers, A.C. Smits, 2006. A computer model for welfare assessment of poultry production systems for laying hens. NJAS 54: 157-168. (FOWEL model for layers)

Stien, L.H., Marc B.M. Bracke, Ole Folkedal, Jonatan Nilsson, Frode Oppedal, Thomas Torgersen, Silje Kittelsen, Paul Midtlyng, Marco A. Vindas, Øyvind Øverli, Tore S. Kristiansen, 2013. Salmon Welfare Index Model (SWIM-1.0): A semantic model for overall welfare assessment of caged Atlantic salmon – review of selected welfare indicators and model presentation. Reviews in Aquaculture 5: 33-57.

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