Welfare concerns what matters to animals from their point of view. What matters to animals is their state of need. Satisfaction and frustration of needs are associated with emotional states, the subjective experience of which directly determines the welfare status of an animal. Because emotional states are difficult to assess, overall welfare assessment (OWA) is best approached as an assessment of needs.
For actual OW A a list of needs must be formulated. Different authors have formulated different lists. From these lists a concept need-list was constructed. For validation the needs-based approach for OWA was discussed in interviews with experts (n = 21) in the field of ethology and other welfare related sciences. These experts generally used mental terminology to define welfare, but when asked to classify their definition of welfare, many preferred a definition in terms of measurable parameters or a combination of both mental terms (feelings) and measurables. Most experts believed that welfare can be assessed objectively and that the problem of OWA is indeed best approached through an assessment of needs. Experts differ as to the exact composition of the list of needs. A list of needs is formulated which we intend to use for OWA in the case of sows.
Bracke, M. B. M., Spruijt, B. M., & Metz, J. H. M. (1999). Overall animal welfare assessment reviewed. Part 3: welfare assessment based on needs and supported by expert opinion. NJAS wageningen journal of life sciences, 307-322.