Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



This review will address how we can measure pain in farm animals and discuss the major causes of acute pain and also chronically painful conditions, and finally make suggestions for future improvements. Pain is a relatively difficult concept to define since it comprises both a physiological sensory and a psychological or emotional component. Pain is the subjective interpretation of nerve impulses induced by a stimulus that is actually or potentially damaging to tissues. The sensation of pain is a response to a noxious stimulus and should elicit protective motor (e.g. withdrawal reflex, escape) and vegetative responses (e.g. cardiovascular responses, inflammation). Zimmerman (1986) also suggested that in animals a painful experience should result in learned avoidance and affect the animal’s behaviour including social behaviour. Therefore we can use behavioural and physiological criteria to determine whether an experience is painful to an animal. It is easier to assess pain in humans since we can tell each other how we are feeling. Many people are unwilling to accept that animals can feel pain since they believe that animals are not capable of having emotions that are similar to humans. The purpose of this review is not to debate this point but animal pain is possibly different to human pain, and can be defined as an “unpleasant sensory and emotional experience” (Bateson 1991). Pain is associated with suffering and distress and the treatment of animals in farm situations has been subject to increasing public concern. During production, farm animals are exposed to procedures which can lead to injury, disease and other noxious events and this will have negative consequences for the animal and on production (Table 1; Fraser and Duncan 1988; Bath 1998). Therefore it is vital for the animal’s wellbeing and for economic reasons that we measure and evaluate potentially painful situations in order to reduce suffering and financial losses. Esslemont (1990) estimated the impact of lameness caused by a sole ulcer to be between £227 and £297 per animal.


Proceedings of Workshop 5 on Sustainable animal Production, organized by the Institute for Animal Science and Animal Behaviour, Federal Agricultural Research Centre (FAL), Mariensee, held September 4-5, 2000