Attitudes of South Brazilian sheep farmers to animal welfare and sentience

ABSTRACT: We investigated self-reported attitudes of 148 South Brazilian sheep farmers to animal welfare and sentience. Many farmers (73.0%) knew animal welfare superficially. Farmers that worked for longer in the sheep industry and that raised sheep for commercial purposes mentioned more commonly that they had knowledge about animal welfare (P<0.05). Terms related to freedom from hunger, thirst and malnutrition were the most used to define animal welfare, cited 24.9% of the times. The majority claimed that their animals experience good levels of welfare (93.2%), especially farmers that kept bigger flocks (P<0.05). However, many respondents believed that sheep welfare could be improved on their farms (71.6%), mainly farmers with less experience in the sheep industry (P<0.01). High scores of sentience were attributed to sheep by farmers with frequent contact with their animals (P<0.05). According to the farmers, castration causes the highest levels of suffering to sheep (32.4%) and shearing, the lowest (50.0%). South Brazilian farmer knowledge about animal welfare, attitudes to sentience and recognition of suffering need improvement.