Does Precision Livestock Farming (PLF) pose a threat to animal welfare?

Research output: Contribution to conferenceC3: Conference - meeting abstractpeer-review


Opportunities of PLF for improving animal welfare have received much more attention than its potential threats. I discuss 12 such threats and possible solutions. Back-up plans may be inadequate when technology fails (threat 1). Longitudinal effects of livestock wearing (or being exposed to) sensors may be poorly tested before commercial introduction (threat 2). When PLF is employed for monitoring animal welfare, the focus may shift from what ought to be assessed to what can be monitored automatically (threat 3). Animal welfare problems that are expressed unordinary may not trigger a warning (false positives), whereas animals not deviating from expected values may be wrongly classified as sound (false negatives) (threat 4). Reduced direct contact with individual animals, caused by further automation and intensification, may reduce the stockpersons’ ability to detect and care for animals that need attention (threat 5). These stockmanship skills may be reduced further when stockpersons increasingly rely on PLF for detecting animal welfare problems and when their profile shifts from animal to technology-oriented (threat 6). PLF-driven improvements in production efficiency may increase worldwide consumption of animal products which in itself may reduce people’s moral concern for animals (threat 7). Not only the opportunities, but also the above mentioned potential threats need to be addressed in order for PLF to live up to its expectations for improving animal welfare and for the social license of future livestock production practices.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 18-Aug-2021
Event8th International Conference on the Assessment of Animal Welfare at Farm and Group Level - online
Duration: 16-Aug-202119-Aug-2021
Conference number: 8


Conference8th International Conference on the Assessment of Animal Welfare at Farm and Group Level
Abbreviated titleWAFL 2021

Cite this