Animal welfare of livestock is not only a topic for social debate; also from a scientific point of view a variety of problems is discussed. Examples are painful procedures such as dehorning, castration and debeaking, high morbidity and mortality rates as well as the severely restricted normal behaviour in common husbandry systems.
Changes of the existing procedures are often associated with higher costs. Therefore an obvious course of action for policy - the creation of an appropriate legal framework - bears the risk that production is transferred to countries with less stringent regulations. Measures, for which no adverse production effects are expected, are those where farmers are compensated for the higher costs of production and the establishment of an animal welfare labelling. In many cases, the exact costs of the introduction of an animal-friendly process are unknown. This information is important in order to identify those husbandry practices, which provide a good level of animal welfare at least cost and will therefore play a more important role in our economic farm level analyses. To support the administration in the design of support instruments, we evaluate the effects of existing measures, but also develop concepts for new, results-oriented approaches.
An important prerequisite for political action, for consumer decisions but also for the evaluation of policies, is the availability of appropriate information and data. We therefore participate actively in the discussions on the selection of indicators and are developing a prototype for a national report on animal welfare of farm animals.