Modern Issues

Domestication requires effort on the part of both species in the relationship, so there must be mutual benefits for it to succeed. For the human partner, there have been many uses for domestic animals, including food, work, manure, protection, sport, religious symbolism, and companionship. From the perspective of other species, the relationship with humans has provided food, shelter, and protection for much less energy expenditure than that demanded by a wild existence.

Modern intensive housing systems are relatively simple and unstimulating in contrast to the complex physical and social environments in which animals were domesticated. Animals no longer need to spend significant parts of their daily time budgets searching for and consuming their feed, so behavioral abnormalities and stereotypic behaviors develop, often based on normal feeding behaviors. It is only in the last 50 years or so that animal agriculture has reached such a large scale that the exaggerated demands of some animal production systems create welfare concerns based on observations of unusual animal behaviors. The rapid changes in management and housing systems in such a short time period have outstripped the ability of even these highly adaptable domestic species to cope. The importance of behavioral genetics in ensuring the continued success of animal agriculture is increasingly recognized.[5] Domestication incorporates genetic change as each species further adapts to the domestic relationship through continuing selection, but the adaptation process needs time to succeed.

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