Animal Behaviour and Welfare

Animal Behaviour

“Behaviour involves the static postures and active movements, all the noises and smells and change of colour and shape that characterize animal life” 

Behaviour is the culmination of all the physiological and neurological signals in the body 

Poor welfare can occur without poor health: 

  • Fear, lonliness, Boredom 
  • Some medical treatments cause poor welfare 
  • Many animal survive and are 'healthy' in conditions that limit their chance of good welfare 

Poor health can occur without poor welfare: 

  • Eating too much high calorie food harms health but not welfare 
  • Some diseases, e.g. reproductive problems, cause no pain or discomfort to the animal 
  • Humane euthanasia obviously causes death, but should not harm welfare 
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Objectivity vs subjectivity

Behaviour is intrinsically objective- it is not private to the induvidual who is behaving 

Welfare is by nature subjective and private to the induvidual 

Both can be measured objectively (e.g. rates, frequencies, durations) or subjectively (e.g. scoring systems)- which is better depends on how quantifible the observable signs are, and what the aim is 

Behaviour is usually quantified as frequencies, durations etc. It can also be rated qualtatively, 

Welfare is measured using behavioural, physiological or environmental indicators. 

The field of animal cognition uses behaviour to investigate animals ability to learn, remember, understand, predict etc 

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Female animals choose mates carefully- they invest a lot in their young, so avoid mating with poor quality males. Males must signal their quality as best they can to win a mate. Only signals that were truly costly would evolve as non costly signals are too easy to fake. Only a true fit and healthy male could afford to produce the signal. 

Aritifial selection for one trait can affect other traits, usually because genes are linked. This can affect animal welfate, either intentionally or by mistake. Pet breeding is controverisal, because selecting for extreme body shapes can directly harm welfare. 

The scientific study of animal behaviour and welfare involves all the usual tools of science. It has allowed us to understand why animals behave as they do, and can even give insight into animals minds and feelings. Results enable evidence based recommendations to improve animal welfare, training and conservation. 

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