I just finished reading a fantastic book authored by Dr. Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson.Dr. Grandin is known in the animal science world as an expert in animal behavior. I would recommend this book for anyone who owns pets or livestock. This book gives insights in animals’ positive emotions and how we can stimulate them while lessening their negative emotions.
As farmers, we are constantly concerned about our animals’ physical welfare. We feed them well balanced meals, we provide them with safe, warm and clean living environments, and try to keep them free of disease. In college we take classes called: animal physiology, animal nutrition, microbiology, and chemistry. Not animal psychology. Physical welfare in animals is something we can measure if we are doing well. Animals with good physical welfare eat well, grow well and have few diseases.
If all of an animal’s physical needs are met are they happy? It is harder to measure if an animal’s emotional welfare is being met. Dr. Grandin gives an example of a laying hen. In the wild, birds need to hide to lay an egg. This is an ingrained instinct that still exists in commercial laying hens. The hens don’t care that they are in a temperature controlled building with no threat of foxes or skunks. Research on laying hens emotional welfare is done by measuring the amount of abnormal repetitive behaviors they express. (ie dogs chew when they are stressed mentally).
The research in this field is relatively young and hugely under funded. On our farm, we try our best to make sure our animals’ emotional needs are met. We calmly handle our cattle (who have have a sensitive fear emotion), we allow our chickens to peck the ground freely (who have a large seeking emotion) and we give our pigs a straw filled living area which allows them to play and seek. Nonetheless, we are constantly trying to improve our animal’s emotional welfare.
Again I recommend “Animals Makes Us Human” to anyone connected with animals. To learn more about Dr. Temple Grandin’s work visit her website: http://www.grandin.com/