The integration of human-animal relations into animal welfare monitoring schemes
There are increasing local and international pressures for farm animal welfare monitoring schemes. Housing of farm animals is a contentious issue for many, although the impact of the housing system may be overestimated by some. In contrast, the topic of stockmanship has received relatively little attention, even though research has shown that animal carers or stockpeople have a major impact on the welfare of their livestock. While welfare monitoring schemes are likely to improve animal welfare, the impact of such schemes will only be realised by recognising the limitations of stockpeople, monitoring 'stockmanship' and providing specific stockperson training to target key aspects of stockmanship. Appropriate strategies to recruit and train stockpeople in the livestock industries are integral to safeguarding the welfare of livestock. Monitoring the key job-related characteristics of the stockperson, attitudes to animals and to working with these animals, empathy, work motivation and technical knowledge and skills, provides the opportunity to detect deficits in stockmanship and the necessity for further targeted training. Due to the strong relationships between stockperson attitudes and behaviours and animal fear responses, as well as the relationships between attitudes and other job-related characteristics, we believe attitudes, together with empathy, work motivation and technical knowledge and skills, should be the principal focus of measuring stockmanship in on-farm welfare monitoring schemes.
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