Much of the food that we eat, such as meat, milk, cheese and eggs, comes from farm animals.
In Europe, the most common farm animals are pigs, cattle and calves, chickens and laying hens, sheep and goats. The quality of the food that these animals produce depends a lot on the quality of life that they have.
Their health and welfare must be respected.
Animal welfare relates to how happy, healthy and comfortable an animal is in its daily life.
European citizens are very concerned about the welfare of animals. They know that animals are sentient beings (picture 1), which means that they have feelings and needs. European rules are in place to make sure that the health and welfare of animals are respected.
These rules are based on the "Five Freedoms", which focus on the needs of the animals.
The Five Freedoms are:
- Freedom from thirst, hunger and malnutrition
- Freedom from discomfort (picture 2)
- Freedom from pain, injury and disease
- Freedom to express normal behaviour (picture 3)
- Freedom from fear and distress (picture 4)
These Five Freedoms are known worldwide.
Animals are sentient beings
Animals are very sensitive and they have needs similar to ours:
- Just like you, animals need good, nourishing food and fresh, clean water. For example a calf needs hay and food containing the proper minerals to be healthy.
- They need suitable shelter and a comfortable resting area, where, for example, they have access to clean litter. Like humans, animals suffer when they are uncomfortable.
- If they are injured or ill, animals feel pain just as you do, and so they should be examined and treated by the veterinarian.
- They need space and contact with other animals in order to play and behave naturally. For example a laying hen needs litter to peck or straw to build its own nest, while pigs need straw to rummage in.
- When they find themselves in a strange place where they have never been, animals can feel fear, just like you.
Some needs are the same for all animals and some needs are different depending on the species or breed. For example, a calf needs more water than a lamb and a meat-producing chicken (broiler) grows up quicker than a hen which lays eggs.
The European Union (EU) has a set of animal welfare rules that cover such things as the conditions of a pigsty, how much air and light laying hens need and how often a keeper must check on their animals.
Animals reared to produce meat are transported to the abattoir at some point. The EU also has rules to make any journey an animal takes as comfortable as possible. Furthermore, when animals are being killed, they must be treated in a way that does not cause them avoidable fear or distress.
Once the food produced from the animal reaches the supermarket, it carries a label indicating in certain cases how the animal was reared. This can often help consumers to see if the welfare of the animal was respected on the farm. For example, the label "free range" on eggs means that they come from hens which are able to go outdoors.
If you are informed about how food from animals is produced and you are aware of how animals should be properly farmed, then you can recognise and choose animal-friendly products when buying food.
On this virtual farm you will find pigs, laying hens, chickens, cattle and calves. You will learn about their life cycles, their needs and the food they produce.
Here you have a chance to try rearing farm animals in an animal-welfare-friendly way.
As you play the game, you will discover by clicking on the "The life of animals" button a series of clues that will help you to ensure a good level of animal welfare!
Remember that "animals are sentient beings" and the best farmers show total respect for their animals.
So, let's enter the farm and become a good farmer….And remember: "Respect, health and quality make for a happy farm!"