But can animal welfare science support improved ethical practices and choices? Take a wild animal/human interaction activity for entertainment as an example. From an ethical perspective, many are concerned that this reinforces the notion animals are a commodity to be used at our whim, and question the justification for such a practice. This is counter-argued that the human/animal interaction encourages people to engage with the animals on many levels, stimulating future engagement on conservation issues. Indeed, on the surface, this animal may seem un-perturbed by the petting. It's within a stimulating environment, inquisitive by nature/age/species, it meets new faces, smells new smells, is given exercise and is probably of good health (nobody wants to interact with a sick looking animal). It means many happy visitors leave with a wonderful snap of their time with a "wild animal," furthered by the belief that these animals go into important conservation breeding programs.
The reality, in many cases, can be very different. Animal welfare science now focuses not just on minimizing negative physical and mental stimuli, such as fear, hunger and stress, but also maximizing positive physical and mental stimuli (positive states), such as contentment and security. Advances in animal welfare science have confirmed the importance of considering animals' psychological states when assessing welfare over time. Although all animals require the basic needs, such as food, water, freedom from fear, good health, express their natural behaviors etc. depriving an animal of any of these will increase the negative state of the animal and possibly prevent a positive state. For example thirst, hunger, an inability to express natural behavior/choice of actions will all create a negative mental state. If one state is maximized, an animal's welfare may still be compromised depending on how much that animal priorities that state, and which other states are being minimized. But, minimizing the occurrence of negative states in their animals, and also concurrently making efforts towards promoting positive states can result in positive animal welfare.