Assessing emotions to improve animal welfare: the use of a multimodal approach
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The broad concern to recognise animals as sentient beings motivates the identification and implementation of new strategies to promote positive affective states, especially in farm settings. The use of a multidimensional approach that takes into account different parameters, including vocalisations, physiological indices and cognition simultaneously, has been proved effective to assess emotions in non-human animals. This approach allows assessing the valance (pleasant vs unpleasant) and intensity (high or low) of the emotional experience. The first chapter of this thesis describes the rationale for using a multimodal approach to assess emotions in animals and its implication for animal welfare. The second chapter includes a detailed review of the impact of emotions on cognitive processes and has a special focus on farm animals. The third chapter presents a study testing the use of a judgement bias test to detect positive emotions following grooming in goats. Although a positive judgement bias has not been identified, the physiological data indicate that the grooming is effective in inducing positive emotional states. In the fourth chapter, the behavioural, physiological and vocalisation profile of goats trained to anticipate positive (palatable food) or negative outcomes (inaccessible food) is explored. Results suggest that goats perceive the positive condition differently from the negative and neutral conditions (i.e. more intense behavioural and physiological response). The fifth chapter provides evidence for the involvement of the left hemisphere when goats process conspecific and familiar calls produced in isolation and feeding conditions. The sixth chapter describes a study looking at the ability of goats to acoustically discriminate and respond to conspecific vocalisations with different emotional valence. Results suggest that goats are able to detect emotional changes in vocalisations and that the valence of the calls affect cardiac variability. Overall, the findings of these studies advance the understanding of the evolutionary function of emotions and have important implications for animal welfare.
- Theses