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Author Notes:

All correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Mollie A. Bloomsmith, Behavioral Management Unit, Yerkes National Primate Research Center, 954 Gatewood Rd, Atlanta, GA 30329. mabloom@emory.edu

The Yerkes Center is fully accredited by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care, International.


Research Funding:

MAB would like to acknowledge support from the Yerkes National Primate Research Center and the National Institutes of Health, Office of Research Infrastructure Programs/OD [P51OD011132].


  • animal welfare
  • standards and practices
  • optimal criteria
  • minimum standards

Introduction: The science and practice of optimal animal welfare


Journal Title:

Behavioural Processes


Volume 156


, Pages 1-2

Type of Work:

Article | Post-print: After Peer Review


For decades, animal welfare standards and practices have been advanced by evidence from research conducted in agricultural, biomedical, and zoological settings (Broom, 1988; Broom, 2011). These standards and practices are generally aimed at defining minimum rather than optimal criteria for welfare. One outcome of this is that regulated animals whose care and housing meets the minimum standards may be able to cope but may not thrive. The welfare continuum of suffering, to coping, to thriving has been proposed as a useful lens through which to view animal welfare, and is based on the study of human well-being (Maple and Bocian, 2013). Indeed, coping has been characterized by some investigators as an indicator of animal welfare. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) website, for example, defines animal welfare as “how an animal is coping with conditions in which it lives.” If an animal is judged to be “healthy, comfortable, well nourished, safe, able to express innate behavior, and it if is not suffering from unpleasant states such as pain, fear, and distress” it is said to be living in a “good” state of animal welfare (AVMA). Animal welfare science developed out of concern for animal suffering in captive settings. Suffering has been dramatically reduced due to improvements in physical and social environments (Maple, 2016), but thriving is still a distant goal. Elsewhere, we have argued that we are aiming too low if we accept coping as a good outcome (Maple and Perdue, 2013). In fact, all of the welfare attributes advocated by AVMA and other organizations are characteristics of animals that thrive. Thriving goes beyond what most minimal regulatory standards require. It is the difference between good and optimal welfare.

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