9th International Conference on the
Welfare Assessment of Animals at Farm Level (WAFL)

The Future of Farm Animal Welfare Science

Welcome to the 9th International Conference on the Welfare Assessment of Animals at Farm Level (WAFL). This will be the first in-person WAFL since Wageningen in 2017 and follows the successful online WAFL conference in 2021. We are delighted to host this conference in collaboration with the Health and Welfare Commission of the European Association for Animal Production (EAAP) in the beautiful city of Florence on August 30th and 31st, 2024. You are also welcome to join us for the 75th EAAP Annual Meeting (1st – 5th September) during which there will be a number of scientific sessions devoted to farm animal health and welfare.

As in all previous WAFL meetings, research on any topic related to the assessment of animal welfare is welcome though this year there is a firm focus on farm animals. Indeed, the importance of an international conference dedicated to farm animal welfare science was never greater.

Farm animal welfare has experienced several turbulent years with the detrimental One Welfare effects of the reactions to COVID quickly followed by the war between Russia and Ukraine with concomitant increases in production costs. This placed enormous pressure on farming systems to achieve production efficiencies and increases in scale while demanding ever more from animals (see hyper-prolific sows). The on-going cost of living crisis means reduced consumer spending on organic and high welfare foods and was partially responsible for the EU’s recent decision to reverse plans to enact stricter and more comprehensive animal welfare legislation. Such legislation was developed over several years in response to the European Citizens Initiative to ‘End the Cage Age’. This represents a major blow for farm animal welfare worldwide given how closely developing countries follow progress on legislation protecting farm animal welfare in the EU.

On the positive side, there is growing interest in more sustainable agroecological farming systems that offer One Welfare benefits and a recent Eurobarometer showed that a high proportion of Europeans (84%) believe that the welfare of farmed animals should be better protected in their country than it is now. Nevertheless, the worldwide focus on anthropogenic global warming and with it the enormous pressure to reduce carbon emissions from agriculture threatens to overshadow efforts to improve the welfare of animals on farm.

Given these challenges, it is timely to consider the future of Farm Animal Welfare Science internationally. Join us in Florence to present your latest research and to have your say in the future of Farm Animal Welfare Science.