Do Farm Animals Feel Pain?
The ability to determine whether farm animals feel pain and the level of painfelt can be an important tool used when assessing the welfare of differentspecies of farm animals (Stubsjøen et al, 2009). Traditionally, pain in farmanimals has been overlooked due to the economic implications that assessingand treating farm animals would have had (Viñuela-Fernández et al, 2007).However, it is now of the general consensus that to ensure the good welfareof production animals, pain should be minimised at all opportunities (Bath,1998). As there is currently no accepted definition of pain in animals,(Viñuela-Fernández et al, 2007) a definition must be agreed upon. Onedefinition that has been used in scientific literature was originally proposed byMolony (1997) and describes pain as a sensory and emotional experiencewhich gives the animal an awareness of the damage or threat of damage tothe tissues of the body. As a result of this threat, the animal’s physiology andbehaviour are changed to reduce or avoid the damage. The change inphysiology and behaviour also has the effect of reducing the likelihood of thedamage occurring again and also helps to promote recovery from the damage(Molony, 1997). From this definition, it is possible to make the conclusion thatpain felt by animals is similar to that felt by humans, which is defined by theInternational Association for the Study of Pain as “
an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage”
(Viñuela-Fernández et al, 2007). This issupported by Fitzpatrick et al (2006) who describe the process of feeling painsimilar in all mammals, through tissue inflammation, resulting in informationfrom the periphery of the body being transmitted along the spinal cord andinto the brain, where the pain is then perceived. Although pain perception in animals is closely linked to pain perception inhumans, the inability of animals to express their pain through language meansthat other methods to determine pain perception must be used (Viñuela-Fernández et al, 2007). These can range from observing behavioural changesto physiological change within the animal’s body, however, it cannot alwaysbe easy to determine between physical pain, stress and fear. This essay isgoing to focus on the levels of pain felt and the mechanisms used todetermine pain perception in different species of farm animals.
According to Bath (1998), the measurement and evaluation of pain in farmanimals is ultimately subjective to the human assessing the animal. Althoughthis was most likely the case in 1998, since that time, there have been anumber of different techniques used and technological advances made thatcan now enable scientists to form more of an objective view of pain in farmanimals. It is now known that pain is caused in farm animals (sheep, cattle,
Do Farm Animals Feel Pain?Page 1