A UK supermarket is trialling an app that will be used to assess and record the emotional wellbeing of animals in the 1800 farms producing livestock for the chain.
“At Waitrose, we put welfare first. But we always want to do better, which is why we’re trialling an app to measure how farm animals are feeling,” Waitrose and Partners announced on its website.
The supermarket chain, which has 335 shops across the United Kingdom, said the technology is designed to help it to understand and recognise how animal behaviour is connected to emotional wellbeing.
“Ultimately, the data will improve their quality of life, and raise welfare standards across the UK.”
Francoise Wemelsfelder, lead scientist and researcher at Scotland’s Rural College, which developed the app, said good physical health was vital for good welfare, but there was also clear consensus among the scientific animal welfare community that factors such as enjoyment, contentment and positive excitement played an equally vital role in ensuring that an animal had a good life.
“It’s critical that we recognise farm animals as sentient creatures capable of experiencing a range of emotions and positive experiences,” he said.
Trained welfare assessors visiting 1800 Waitrose farms will use the app to record how animals express their emotions through behaviours such as being relaxed, tense, playful or anxious.
“This is a huge development for the industry as it is the first time any retailer has explored welfare measures based on the concept of an animal’s freedom to express positive emotions,” says James Bailey, executive director at Waitrose.
“In some countries, farm animals continue to be looked upon as food production systems that need to be managed. This is wrong and for the UK to continue its position as a leader in farming standards, it’s critical that we recognise farm animals as sentient creatures capable of experiencing a range of emotions and positive experiences.”
The launch of the app, which Waitrose has licensed for exclusive trial and development for two years, marked the start of Waitroses 10-year Agriculture Strategy, the company said.
“Waitrose is the current holder of Compassion in World Farming’s ‘best retailer’ in Europe award, winning it three times in a row.”
HOW THE APP WORKS
There are currently six versions for different species: dairy cows, veal calves, pigs, laying hens, chickens and ducks. Others will follow.
Farmers and producers from each of these unique supply chains have been working together to come up with common terms for describing emotions of individual species.
Animals are observed and given a score on the individual terms that have been created for that specific species.
Each term has a negative to positive sliding scale that allows assessors to capture the state of the animal they are observing.
When they have finished scoring, assessors submit the data, which is integrated into data from other farms. It is that larger pattern that is used to assess quality of life.
Source: Waitrose and Partners