My jargon buster page is designed to clarify some of the terms used in my blog and on other animal welfare sites. If you have any suggestions please let us know; we update this regularly and would love to be able to clarify anything for you.
Animal sentience Science increasingly recognises what we know from watching the cats and dogs we share our lives with; that animals, like humans, experience emotions, feel pain and are aware of themselves in the world around them. Some animals plan actions and show feelings of well-being. See our Lives of Animals blog.
Animal welfare Animal welfare is about ensuring the wellbeing of the individual animal from the animal’s point of view. It includes animal health and encompasses both the physical and psychological state of the animal. The welfare of an animal can be described as good or high if the individual is fit, healthy and free from suffering. To put it another way, the animals are healthy and have what they need. Welfare is about consideration for the living animal, as dead animals do not suffer. Death may pose ethical questions, but is not a welfare issue in itself. However, the manner of and reason for death may indicate poor welfare. The way an animal is killed, for example, can cause pain and suffering. Similarly, mortality may be a symptom of poor welfare, such as disease.
Aquaculture (Aquafarming) This is the farming of freshwater and saltwater fish; as well as molluscs (e.g., clams, oysters) and crustaceans (e.g., crabs, lobsters, prawns) in controlled intensive conditions. The vast majority of Atlantic salmon and rainbow trout are farmed in these factory farms. Others include cod, carp, catfish and sea bass. Read our reports.
Battery Cage A battery cage typically holds five hens allowing each bird the space of an A4 sheet of paper. As of 1st January 2012, the battery cage is outlawed in the European Union; however, the use of ‘enriched’ cages remains legal, these have only slightly higher minimum space requirements. Learn more.
Broiler Broiler is the type of chicken raised for meat. Broiler sheds are the long buildings used to house tens of thousands at once. Intensively reared broilers typically have no outside access and reach their slaughter weight in less than 6 weeks. Most of the broilers in the world are reared this way. More information.
Climate change The Earth’s climate has changed through time, with periods of warming and cooling. Today, the Earth’s climate is changing at an unprecedented rate and scientists agree this is a result of human impact on the environment resulting in global warming. Livestock production is a significant contributor to the greenhouse gases that are causing
Cloning The first mammal cloned from an adult cell was Dolly the sheep in 1996. Today there are estimated to be around 6000 farm animal clones worldwide. The process that created Dolly is called somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). This process involves removing the nucleus (which contains the DNA) from an egg cell and replacing it with the nucleus from a body cell taken from the donor animal. An electrical pulse is used to fuse the egg cell with its new nucleus and activate it to develop into an embryo. The embryo is then implanted in the uterus of a “surrogate” mother animal. If the pregnancy is successful, the offspring that is born will be a clone of the donor animal. Cloning has very serious consequences for animal welfare, both as a direct result of the technology and through exacerbation of the health and welfare problems caused by selective breeding for high productivity. The large majority of cloned embryos fail to develop normally and die before the pregnancy reaches term. For those that survive to delivery, a significant proportion of the animals die during or shortly after birth or at various times over the following days and weeks of life from cardiovascular failure, respiratory problems, liver or kidney failure, immune system deficiencies or musculoskeletal abnormalities; clones may be born unusually large and with a range of health problems, termed “large offspring syndrome”. The welfare of animals used as surrogate mothers is also adversely affected. A large proportion of clone pregnancies fail, mainly due to abnormalities of the placenta. For those pregnancies that make it to term, the birth is often difficult and delivery is commonly by Caesarean section. There are a number of other serious concerns associated with farm animal cloning; including a threat to the genetic diversity of the world’s livestock, food safety and ethical concerns.
Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) This is the industry term for factory farms; which are defined as large-scale, industrialised systems of raising animals for food production. Discover what you can do to fights CAFOs.
Cruelty Free A term used to describe consumer and lifestyle choices which avoid products and activities that involve the killing and/or abuse of animals. Action you can take.
Debeaking This beak trimming involves removing up to a third of a chicken’s beak with a red-hot blade or an infra-red beam. This mutilation, used to prevent feather pecking and cannibalism causes the animals pain. The UK government was set to ban debeaking but this is now in doubt. Read why.
Factory farming Factory farming is where animals are treated like production machines rather than individual sentient beings with welfare needs. It involves ‘intensive’ farming, characterised by the use of close confinement systems (cages and crates) or overcrowded sheds or barren outdoor feedlots. It also involves the use of fast growing or high producing breeds where the animals are prone to painful production-related diseases. Factory farming is energy-intensive, using concentrated feed, high mechanisation and low labour requirements. Intensive farming is often practised on a massive scale and is sometimes known as ‘industrial’ agriculture.
Foie Gras (force feeding) This is the force-feeding of ducks and geese with large amounts of feed, two to three times a day for a period of two to three weeks before slaughter to increase their liver size by up to ten times and its fat content by more than 50%. Action.
Gestation Crate These are metal cages, usually with bare slatted floors, which are so narrow they stop sows from turning around. Pregnant sows are kept in them for their 16 week gestation period. Compassion secured an EU-wide ban on gestation crates with effect from 2013. More on pig welfare issues.
Grower Houses. The poultry industry is a vertically integrated business; many factory farmers have contracts with grower houses for particular breeds of chicken. These breeds must be reared under strict conditions; including monitoring the amount and type of feed they consume, as well as vaccines and medications used, and target weights and growth rates. Learn more here.
Intensive vs. Extensive Comparing factory (intensive) with free range (extensive) farming highlights the animal welfare problems of the former with the benefits of the latter. Animals raised intensively are unable to fulfil their behavioural and psychological needs whereas on extensive systems they can, which is why we must go beyond factory farming.
Organic Organic farming is a good example of a humane and sustainable agricultural system. For chickens, laying hens, pigs and cows it means a better quality environment with outdoor access, a balanced diet, freedom to express normal behaviour, and often a longer life. Find out why.
Sustainability Sustainable agriculture means producing food in a way that can continue indefinitely without unacceptable environmental, social or economic costs. Factory farming is unsustainable because it is heavily reliant on large inputs of energy, land and water resources to grow animal feed crops. Sustainable agriculture should also incorporate humane animal welfare practices. Discover why.
Veal Crates Compassion led the campaign to outlaw veal crates in the UK from 1990 and in the EU from 2007. Veal crates were usually 2 feet wide with slatted wooden or grated flooring in which calves raised for veal were confined for their entire lives (16 to 20 weeks). Read more.