In current dairy farming it is possible to run a profitable farm without having to adapt the system to the needs of dairy cows. In such systems the interests of the farmer and animals often diverge. Consequently, specific animal welfare problems occur. Foot disorders in dairy cattle are an illustrative example resulting from the specific methods of housing and management in current dairy farming. Foot disorders and the resulting lameness are considered the most important welfare problem in dairy farming. However, these foot disorders not only typify welfare problems related to certain housing systems, but they also lead to the premature culling of cows. The assessment of the impact of foot disorders on the welfare of dairy cows raised the question of whether premature culling affects animal welfare since it affects the longevity of a cow. We argue that this aspect of longevity is morally relevant as an animal welfare issue. In this paper we aim to explore whether longevity is both (a) a morally relevant aspect in the discussion on killing animals and (b) a constitutive element of animal welfare. In other words, we aim to explore whether longevity is an independent moral argument in an animal welfare discussion. We claim that longevity is not merely important as an indicator of animal welfare, but is also a constitutive element of animal welfare. We argue that we need a more integrated approach to animal welfare and that an assessment that includes the aspect of time is necessary. This view involves a shift from views on animal welfare in terms of functioning or feeling well to a view on animal welfare that includes the aspect of natural living in which species-specific development is important. To show the impact of these points of view, we look at the practical implications for choices concerning the management of foot disorders in dairy cattle.
- locomotion score