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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2008

Expert opinion as 'validation' of risk assessment applied to calf welfare

Bracke, Marc B. M.; Edwards, Sandra A.; Engel, Bas; Buist, Willem G.; Algers, Bo


Background: Recently, a Risk Assessment methodology was applied to animal welfare issues in a report of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) on intensively housed calves.Methods: Because this is a new and potentially influential approach to derive conclusions on animal welfare issues, a so-called semantic-modelling type 'validation' study was conducted by asking expert scientists, who had been involved or quoted in the report, to give welfare scores for housing systems and for welfare hazards.Results: Kendall's coefficient of concordance among experts (n = 24) was highly significant (P < 0.001), but low (0.29 and 0.18 for housing systems and hazards respectively). Overall correlations with EFSA scores were significant only for experts with a veterinary or mixed (veterinary and applied ethological) background. Significant differences in welfare scores were found between housing systems, between hazards, and between experts with different backgrounds. For example, veterinarians gave higher overall welfare scores for housing systems than ethologists did, probably reflecting a difference in their perception of animal welfare.Systems with the lowest scores were veal calves kept individually in so-called "baby boxes" (veal crates) or in small groups, and feedlots. A suckler herd on pasture was rated as the best for calf welfare. The main hazards were related to underfeeding, inadequate colostrum intake, poor stockperson education, insufficient space, inadequate roughage, iron deficiency, inadequate ventilation, poor floor conditions and no bedding. Points for improvement of the Risk Assessment applied to animal welfare include linking information, reporting uncertainty and transparency about underlying values.Conclusion: The study provides novel information on expert opinion in relation to calf welfare and shows that Risk Assessment applied to animal welfare can benefit from a semantic modelling approach.

Published in

Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica
2008, Volume: 50, article number: 29

    SLU Authors

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG2 Zero hunger

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Animal and Dairy Science
    Veterinary Science

    Publication Identifiers


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