Published symposium review explores methods to assess emotions in dairy cattle


Source: University of British Columbia

A symposium review from the Animal Welfare Program published in the Journal of Dairy Science explores the methods used to assess affective or “emotional” states in dairy cattle.

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Affective states, which refer to feelings or emotions, are a key component of animal welfare, but these are also difficult to assess. Drawing upon a body of theoretical and applied work, we critically review the scientific literature on the assessment of affective states in animals, drawing examples where possible from research on dairy cattle, and highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of scientific methods used to assess affective states in animals. We adopt the “valence/arousal” framework, describing affect as a 2-dimensional space (with valence referring to whether an experience is positive or negative, and arousal referring to the intensity of the experience). We conclude that spontaneous physiological and behavioral responses typically reflect arousal, whereas learned responses can be valuable when investigating valence. We also conclude that the assessment of affective states can be furthered using mood assessments and that the use of drug treatments with known emotional effects in humans can be helpful in the assessment of specific affective states in animals.