Galloping Colts, Fetal Feelings, and Reassuring Regulations: Putting Animal-Welfare Science into Practice

  • Mellor D
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About a decade ago, concern was expressed that fetuses might suffer while dying in utero after the death of their dams. However, reference to already published literature provided compelling evidence that fetuses cannot consciously experience negative sensations or feelings, such as breathlessness and pain, and showed that, provided certain precautions are taken, they cannot suffer--their welfare is assured. In this article, I outline the major features of fetal and neonatal physiology that underlie this conclusion as it relates to fetuses that are neurologically exceptionally immature, moderately immature, or mature at birth. As an example of the practical application of this knowledge, I also show how the results of detailed studies reported in the biomedical literature, together with evolving understanding of the capacity of animals to experience negative sensations reported in the animal-welfare science literature, led to the development of international guidelines for the humane management of livestock fetuses when their dams are slaughtered commercially. I also highlight the notion that significant progress in the scientific understanding of animal welfare, and its applications, can be made by remaining open to knowledge developed in disciplines at the margins of or beyond those in the animal-welfare science, ethology, and veterinary sciences arenas.

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  • David J. Mellor

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