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Abnormal Behaviours in Farm Animals: Ethological Implications

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image of Netherlands Journal of Zoology
For more content, see Archives Néerlandaises de Zoologie (Vol 1-17) and Animal Biology (Vol 53 and onwards).

In the Netherlands enormous numbers of farm animals are kept in so called intensive husbandry systems. Many of these animals show abnormal behaviours like tongue playing of crated veal calves, bar biting of tethered sows, sham-dustbathing of hens in battery cages. What is the meaning of this type of behaviour in terms of animal welfare? To answer this a regulatory model of behaviour is described in which Sollwerte play a key role. In vertebrates these Sollwerte are realized by flexible behaviour programs. Against this background the origin of abnormal or disturbed behaviour in farm animals is described. A central idea is that vertebrates try to control or to predict Umwelt changes and by this secure a state of welfare. Some form of awareness in animals behaving this way has to be assumed. It is discussed why (farm) animals probably have feelings (emotions) and for what purpose they even need such feelings. Finally a relationship is described between behaviour and abomasal lesions in veal calves demonstrating the necessity and usefulness of welfare research on the level of individuals.

Affiliations: 1: (Dept. Animal Husbandry and Ethology, Wageningen, Agricultural Universiy, "Zodiac", Marijkeweg 40, 6709 PG Wageningen, The Netherlands


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