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Research article2022Peer reviewedOpen access

Environmental Quality and Compliance with Animal Welfare Legislation at Swedish Cattle and Sheep Farms

Hultgren, Jan; Hiron, Matthew; Glimskar, Anders; Bokkers, Eddie A. M.; Keeling, Linda J.


Conflicts between different goals can obstruct progress in sustainability, but interests may also coincide. We evaluated relationships between environmental quality and animal welfare on Swedish farms with grazing livestock, using publicly available databases. Data were collected from 8700 official animal welfare inspections on 5808 cattle farms and 2823 inspections on 2280 sheep farms in 2012-2017. Compliance with three animal-based checkpoints was modeled using logistic regression, including a random farm effect to account for repeated inspections. Compliance was regressed on semi-natural grassland area, participation in the National Meadow and Pasture Inventory, Agri-Environmental Scheme (AES) grassland payments, presence of indicator plant species, and the presence of Natura 2000 habitats. Cattle farms complied more often if they received AES payments for grasslands of special values compared with if they did not apply for them (OR = 1.55-1.65; p <= 0.0001) and there was a similar tendency for cattle farms that applied for but were denied such payments (OR = 1.29; p = 0.074). There was also a strong tendency for Natura 2000 habitats on cattle farms to be associated with higher compliance (OR = 1.36; p = 0.059). These results suggest a direct or indirect causal effect of biodiversity on cattle welfare. The same associations could not be shown in sheep.


biodiversity; farm animal; grassland; meat production; pasture; sustainability

Published in

2022, Volume: 14, number: 3, article number: 1095
Publisher: MDPI