Are animal health and animal welfare linked?

The concepts of animal welfare and animal health can often be confused and are sometimes interchanged in conversations. Today, there is wide consensus that although these are two distinct concepts, they are inherently linked with each other. 

Animal health is a prerequisite for animal welfare.  As with people, any kind of illness can mean pain, discomfort, loss of appetite, etc. meaning that people, or in this case, animals do not feel ‘well’. Likewise, when animals, like people, are stressed, not well-fed or cared for, then disease can strike. So there is an inherent link between the two concepts.  

Farmers in Europe are well aware that in the instance of disease occurrence, it is important to seek veterinary care so that the appropriate treatment can be advised to avoid animal suffering and uphold good standards of welfare. 

If the welfare of animals is poor, when they don’t feel well or they feel stressed, there is increased susceptibility to disease and aggressive behaviour. This is not in the interest of the farmer, so in general the farmer will take appropriate measures to ensure good animal welfare. 

This intertwined relation between the health and welfare of animals makes both concepts extremely important in livestock farming. And in practice they are of equal importance, not only for the animals themselves, but also in a broader societal context because animal health and welfare are both important aspects of food safety and meat quality, as well as public expectation.