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Journal Articles Animal Production Science Year : 2014

Animal welfare: towards transdisciplinarity - the European experience


The premises of animal welfare science can be found in the debate about the moral status of animals in philosophy, the introduction of the concept of stress in physiology, and the description of the behaviour of animals by ethologists. In the 1970s animal welfare became an object of study for applied research with the aim of improving the life of domesticated animals. It was first studied within disciplines, e. g. applied ethologists compared the behaviour of domesticated animals to that of their wild counterparts and identified behavioural needs. Then it became clear that stress is more a psychological concept than a physiological one. The links between stress and behavioural needs and preferences were also established. Similarly the links between animal welfare and health were investigated by looking at malaise behaviour and at stress-immunity relations. More recently, frameworks developed in human psychology were applied to animals to identify the emotions they can experience. This typically requires that researchers from one discipline engage with other disciplines for a cross fertilisation of concepts and frameworks. Animal welfare scientists now use many indicators, covering a wide range of possible disorders from abnormal behaviour, diseases, production failure, and poor emotional states. Animal scientists started to work with social scientists to relate their own perception of animal welfare and that of society at large. This interdisciplinary approach is illustrated by the Welfare Quality project where an overall assessment of animal welfare was built according to scientific evidence of what matters to animals as seen by animal scientists and of what society value as good care to these animals. We feel that animal welfare requires breaking frontiers between disciplines to create a holistic approach. We discuss whether we need to move from an interdisciplinary to a transdisciplinary approach, across and beyond disciplines, whereby not only scientists but also stakeholders and society at large can contribute to the definition of this particular research object: animal welfare

Dates and versions

hal-02638699 , version 1 (28-05-2020)



Isabelle Veissier, Maria Miele. Animal welfare: towards transdisciplinarity - the European experience. Animal Production Science, 2014, 54 (9), pp.1119-1129. ⟨10.1071/AN14330⟩. ⟨hal-02638699⟩
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