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Farm Animals

Globally, livestock production is the largest user of agricultural land (1) and estimated figures for the most commonly farmed species are: 1 billion pigs; 1.7 billion cattle and buffalo; 2.2 billion sheep and goats; and 20 billion chickens (2). Humans farm animals to provide food and animal products to satisfy the 7.4 billion people alive in the world today (projected to reach 11.2 billion in 2100 (3)) and to cater for a change in dietary preference to one in which greater quantities of meat and dairy products are consumed.

Although humans have been farming animals for a very long time (over 10,000 years) there is still much to learn about farmed animals’ needs, and how best to develop practical and economic environments and production systems that not only minimize welfare challenges, but also provide a good quality of life. For all sentient animals, UFAW supports the principles of the ‘five freedoms’. 

While considerable progress has been made in improving farm animal welfare over the past few decades (such as better-quality veterinary care, enhanced nutrition, and a greater understanding of animal behaviour and genetics), there are still some long-standing welfare issues facing today’s farmed animals that have proved difficult to deal with.

To give a greater insight into the lives of farm animals (and to show why it is so important to support animal welfare research and to disseminate important findings, the following examples have been selected to highlight a number of welfare issues that presently affect many millions of animals every day:

  1. Lameness in dairy cattle
  2. Keel damage in laying hens
  3. Castration in pigs
  4. Farmed fish welfare

Suggested further reading:

Webster, John (Ed). Management and Welfare of Farm Animals: The UFAW Farm Handbook. 5th Edition. 2011. Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN: 978-1-4051-8174-7616 

Webster, John. Animal Welfare: Limping Towards Eden. 2005. Wiley-Blackwell.


  1. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). FAO Statistical Pocketbook World Food and Agriculture 2015. (2015). FAO Rome. ISBN 978-92-5-108802-9
  2. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). FAO Statistical Yearbook 2013, World food and agriculture. (2013). ISSN 2225-7373. ISBN 978-92-5-107396-4.
  3.   United Nations (UN), Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), Population Division (2015). World Population Prospects: The 2015 Revision, Key Findings and Advance Tables. Working Paper No. ESA/P/WP.241.