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Open AccessArticle

Exploring the Use of a Qualitative Behavioural Assessment Approach to Assess Emotional State of Calves in Rodeos

1
School of Veterinary Science, University of Sydney, Camden, New South Wales 2570, Australia
2
Science Team, RSPCA Australia, Deakin, ACT 2600, Australia
3
School of Veterinary Science, University of Sydney, Camperdown, New South Wales 2006, Australia
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2020, 10(1), 113; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10010113
Received: 10 November 2019 / Revised: 16 December 2019 / Accepted: 22 December 2019 / Published: 10 January 2020
(This article belongs to the Section Animal Welfare)
The nature of rodeo events, including calf-roping, bull- and bronco-riding and steer-wrestling, regularly subject animals to rough handling in ways likely to elicit fear. However, there have been only limited attempts to assess the emotional state of animals undergoing these handling techniques. The current project aims to explore the potential of a qualitative behavioural assessment (QBA) approach to estimate various emotional states by examining images of calves before and after being roped during a rodeo event. QBA is based on human descriptors that summarise the dynamic, expressive style of an animal’s interaction with its environment; e.g., relieved, calm, contented, or anxious. The study found that calves show very different emotions (what they are experiencing emotionally) and behaviours (what they are doing) during the two phases of calf-roping assessed: the chase and recovery. These results indicate that a QBA approach has potential for assessing animal welfare in the entertainment industry.
There are longstanding disagreements between the rodeo industry stakeholders and animal welfare advocates about the wellbeing of the animals used in events. The current study aims to determine whether qualitative behavioural assessment (QBA) is effective in identifying the emotional state of calves in so-called calf-roping events. Still images of calves captured from videos of calf-roping were shown to two groups: practitioners (n = 7) and students (n = 16). For each image, they scored (on a scale of 1–10) 12 descriptive terms—e.g., stressed, energetic, confused, frightened—based on how strongly they thought the animal was experiencing that emotion. Scores were analysed using Factor Analysis and Ordinal Logistic Regression models, while inter-rater reliability was assessed using Intra-Class Correlation Coefficients. The same imagery (video and images) were analysed for behaviours associated with the calves’ ears, neck, legs and tail to develop a behavioural ethogram, which was analysed with Binary Logistic Regression and Anova wrapping. The students were also surveyed to assess their empathy towards animals. The chase phase attracted significantly higher scores for stressed (µ = 5.0, p < 0.001), agitated (µ = 5.1, p < 0.001), anxious (µ = 5.0, p < 0.001) and frightened (µ = 5.0, p < 0.001), and the behavioural ethogram revealed that calves commonly galloped (p < 0.001) and held their tails rigidly during this phase (p = 0.010). In contrast, the recovery phase was characterised by significantly higher scores for calm (µ = 3.0, p < 0.001), contented (µ = 2.7, p < 0.001) and relieved (µ = 1.6, p < 0.001), and calves moved slower (p < 0.001) with more neutral ear positions (ears axial p = 0.008, ears forward p = 0.010). A clear pre- and post-rope effect was evident, showing that QBA indicated that calves were anxious while being chased and were relieved when they had been released. The survey data revealed that students who had more empathy for animals in pain and for those used in experiments were more empathetic towards calves during the chase phase. They felt that calves being chased were agitated, anxious, stressed, frightened and confused. These results confirm that QBA has the potential as a tool for assessing the welfare of animals used in rodeos. View Full-Text
Keywords: qualitative behavioural assessment; calf; calf-roping; rope-and-tie; rodeo; animal behaviour; behavioural assessment; animal wellbeing qualitative behavioural assessment; calf; calf-roping; rope-and-tie; rodeo; animal behaviour; behavioural assessment; animal wellbeing
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Rizzuto, S.; Evans, D.; Wilson, B.; McGreevy, P. Exploring the Use of a Qualitative Behavioural Assessment Approach to Assess Emotional State of Calves in Rodeos. Animals 2020, 10, 113.

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