Animal welfare is the physical and psychological well-being of animals. It is measured by indicators including behaviour, physiology, longevity, and reproduction.
The term animal welfare can also mean human concern for animal welfare or a position in a debate on animal ethics and animal rights. This position is measured by attitudes to different types of animal uses.
Systematic concern for animal welfare can be based on awareness that non-human animals are sentient and that consideration should be given to their well-being, especially when they are used by humans. These concerns can include how animals are killed for food, how they are used for scientific research, how they are kept as pets, and how human activities affect the survival of endangered species.
An ancient object of concern in some civilizations, animal welfare began to take a larger place in Western public policy in 19th-century Britain. Today it is a significant focus of interest or activity in veterinary science, in ethics, and in animal welfare organizations.
There are two forms of criticism of the concept of animal welfare, coming from diametrically opposite positions. One view, dating back centuries, asserts that animals are not consciously aware and hence are unable to experience poor welfare. The other view is based on the animal rights position that animals should not be regarded as property and any use of animals by humans is unacceptable. Some authorities thus treat animal welfare and animal rights as two opposing positions. Accordingly, some animal right proponents argue that the perception of better animal welfare facilitates continued and increased exploitation of animals. Others see the increasing concern for animal welfare as incremental steps towards animal rights.