Neurobiological Basis of Sensory Perception: Welfare Implications of Beak Trimming
The practice of beak trimming in the poultry industry occurs to prevent excessive body pecking, cannibalism, and to avoid feed wastage. To assess the welfare implications of the procedure, an emphasis of this paper has been placed on the anatomical structures that comprise the beak and mouth parts and a representation of the structures removed following beak trimming. Five animal welfare concerns regarding the procedure have been addressed, including the following: loss of normal beak function, short-term pain and temporary debilitation, tongue and nostril damage, neuromas and scar tissue, and long-term and phantom limb pain. Because all of the concerns involve the nervous system, the current knowledge of the avian somatosensory system was summarized. The critical components include touch, pain, and thermal receptors in the buccal cavity and bill, the trigeminal system, and neural projections mapped to the pallium (cortical-like tissue in the avian forebrain). At the present time, a need remains to continue the practice of beak trimming in the poultry industry to prevent head, feather, and vent pecking in some lines of birds. The procedure, however, should involve conservative trimming and be limited to young birds. Importantly, data show that removing 50% or less of the beak of chicks can prevent the formation of neuromas and allow regeneration of keratinized tissue to prevent deformed beaks and therefore positively affect the quality of life of birds during their lifetime.