Special Issue "Positive Aspects of Animal Welfare"

A special issue of Animals (ISSN 2076-2615). This special issue belongs to the section "Animal Welfare".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 September 2019).

Special Issue Editor

Assoc. Prof. Silvana Mattiello
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Università degli Studi di Milano, Dipartimento di Medicina Veterinaria, Laboratorio di Benessere animale, Etologia Applicata e Produzioni Sostenibili, Via G. Celoria 10, 20133 Milan, Italy
Interests: Animal Welfare; Animal Behaviour; Small Ruminants; Cattle; Milk; Wildlife Conservation

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

During the last decades the interest in animal welfare has been greatly increasing among scientists, veterinarians, farmers, consumers, the general public and pet owners. As a consequence, several indicators have been developed and used under experimental conditions at the farm level or in the home environment to assess animal welfare and specific protocols have been proposed for welfare evaluation of various species in different contexts.

Most of the indicators developed so far focus on negative aspects of animal welfare (e.g. lameness, lesions, diseases, presence of abnormal behaviour, high levels of stress hormones, and many more), and only very few indicators are presently available to highlight positive aspects of animal welfare. However, the lack of negative welfare conditions represents just a minimum standard that should be guaranteed to animals, and it does not necessarily mean that animals are in good welfare conditions and have a good quality of life. To guarantee high welfare standards, animals should experience positive conditions, that allow them to live a life that is really worth living.

For these reasons, the new frontiers of animal welfare should aim to reach this high quality of life, and research should now focus on the development and validation of positive welfare indicators.

Original research papers addressing positive aspects of animal welfare, both in farm and companion animals, as well as in zoo animals, are welcome in this Special Issue. Topics of interest are the development and validation of new positive welfare indicators (behavioural, physiological, immunological, productive, etc.), the testing and refinement of existing indicators, the assessment of their reliability and feasibility, and the development of new welfare assessment protocols focusing on positive aspects. Additionally, special interest will be given to interdisciplinary approaches, such as the inclusion of neurosciences and recent technical advances in different disciplines that may open up new perspectives on positive welfare aspects.

Assoc. Prof. Silvana Mattiello
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Animals is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1200 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Animal welfare
  • Quality of life
  • Positive emotions
  • Behaviour
  • Physiology
  • Farm animals
  • Companion animals
  • Zoo animals
  • Neurosciences
  • Enrichments

Published Papers (9 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle
Investigation of a Standardized Qualitative Behaviour Assessment and Exploration of Potential Influencing Factors on the Emotional State of Dairy Calves
Animals 2019, 9(10), 757; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9100757 - 02 Oct 2019
Abstract
Assessing emotional states of dairy calves is an essential part of welfare assessment, but standardized protocols are absent. The present study aims at assessing the emotional states of dairy calves and establishing a reliable standard procedure with Qualitative Behavioral Assessment (QBA) and 20 [...] Read more.
Assessing emotional states of dairy calves is an essential part of welfare assessment, but standardized protocols are absent. The present study aims at assessing the emotional states of dairy calves and establishing a reliable standard procedure with Qualitative Behavioral Assessment (QBA) and 20 defined terms. Video material was used to compare multiple observer results. Further, live observations were performed on 49 dairy herds in Denmark and Italy. Principal Component Analysis (PCA) identified observer agreement and QBA dimensions (PC). For achieving overall welfare judgment, PC1-scores were turned into the Welfare Quality (WQ) criterion ‘Positive Emotional State’. Finally, farm factors’ influence on the WQ criterion was evaluated by mixed linear models. PCA summarized QBA descriptors as PC1 ‘Valence’ and PC2 ‘Arousal’ (explained variation 40.3% and 13.3%). The highest positive descriptor loadings on PC1 was Happy (0.92) and Nervous (0.72) on PC2. The WQ-criterion score (WQ-C12) was on average 51.1 ± 9.0 points (0: worst to 100: excellent state) and ‘Number of calves’, ‘Farming style’, and ‘Breed’ explained 18% of the variability of it. We conclude that the 20 terms achieved a high portion of explained variation providing a differentiated view on the emotional state of calves. The defined term list proved to need good training for observer agreement. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Positive Aspects of Animal Welfare)
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Open AccessArticle
What Are the Positives? Exploring Positive Welfare Indicators in a Qualitative Interview Study with Livestock Farmers
Animals 2019, 9(9), 694; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9090694 - 17 Sep 2019
Abstract
To support the furtherance of positive animal welfare, there is a need to develop meaningful and practical positive welfare indicators for on-farm welfare assessment. Considering the perspectives of farmers is arguably critical in this regard. Doing so helps ensure positive welfare indicators reflect [...] Read more.
To support the furtherance of positive animal welfare, there is a need to develop meaningful and practical positive welfare indicators for on-farm welfare assessment. Considering the perspectives of farmers is arguably critical in this regard. Doing so helps ensure positive welfare indicators reflect farmers’ existing welfare norms and attitudes and, are thus, of practical relevance to them. However, a key issue for such development is the dearth of knowledge on farmers’ perspectives of positive welfare. To address this, this study uses qualitative interviews to directly examine livestock farmers’ perspectives of positive welfare. Findings reveal that farmers describe elements of positive welfare which are broadly in line with indicators suggested in the positive welfare literature. These elements include animal autonomy, play, positive affect, positive human-animal relationships, social interaction, and appropriate genetic selection. Additionally, this study finds that farmers construct the reduction of negative aspects of welfare as their primary management concern and mostly construct positive welfare as arising indirectly from this. Insights into the importance that farmers of different sectors and systems give to different aspects of positive welfare indicators are also explored. The implications of these findings and the similitudes between farmers’ perspectives and the positive welfare literature are discussed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Positive Aspects of Animal Welfare)
Open AccessArticle
The Effects of Play Behavior, Feeding, and Time of Day on Salivary Concentrations of sIgA in Calves
Animals 2019, 9(9), 657; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9090657 - 05 Sep 2019
Abstract
The focus of animal welfare science has shifted over the last decades from efforts to avoid negative states to ways of allowing animals the experience of positive emotions. They may influence physiological processes in farmed animals, potentially providing health benefits; in addition, the [...] Read more.
The focus of animal welfare science has shifted over the last decades from efforts to avoid negative states to ways of allowing animals the experience of positive emotions. They may influence physiological processes in farmed animals, potentially providing health benefits; in addition, the physiological changes might be used as indicators of emotional states. We investigated calves’ salivary secretory immunoglobulin A (sIgA) concentrations with regard to a possible circadian rhythm and two situations that elicit positive emotions. Ten saliva samples of 14 calves were taken on two consecutive days; within the course of a day we observed a significant decline in salivary sIgA concentrations at 14:00 h. Further, we probed the animals before and after milk feeding and, contrarily to our prediction, detected lower sIgA concentrations 5 min after feeding than 15 min before. A probable explanation might be an increase in salivary flow rate caused by milk ingestion. We also took samples before and after we stimulated play behavior in calves. There was no significant difference in sIgA concentrations between samples taken before and after play. Although there was a significant correlation between the change in sIgA concentrations and the amount of play behavior shown, the correlation depended on an unexpected decrease of sIgA in animals that played little, and thus, does not support our hypothesis. In general, the data showed a large variability that might arise from different factors that are difficult to standardize in animals. Thus, the use of salivary sIgA concentrations as a marker of positive emotions in calves is not supported conclusively by the present data. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Positive Aspects of Animal Welfare)
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Open AccessArticle
Intra- and Inter-Observer Reliability of Qualitative Behaviour Assessments of Housed Sheep in Norway
Animals 2019, 9(8), 569; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9080569 - 17 Aug 2019
Abstract
This study tested the reliability of a Qualitative Behavioural Assessment (QBA) protocol developed for the Norwegian Sheep House (FåreBygg) project. The aim was to verify whether QBA scores were consistent between different observers, i.e., inter-observer reliability, and between scorings of the [...] Read more.
This study tested the reliability of a Qualitative Behavioural Assessment (QBA) protocol developed for the Norwegian Sheep House (FåreBygg) project. The aim was to verify whether QBA scores were consistent between different observers, i.e., inter-observer reliability, and between scorings of the same observers on different time points, i.e., intra-observer reliability. Six trained observers, including two veterinary students, two animal welfare inspectors and two sheep farmers observed sheep in 16 videos, and independently scored 14 pre-defined behavioural descriptors on visual analogue scales (VAS). The procedure was repeated one week after the first scoring session. QBA scores were analysed using Principal Component Analysis. Inter- and intra-observer agreement was assessed using Kendall’s coefficient of concordance (W). Principal component 1 (PC 1) and 2 (PC 2) combined explained >60% of the total variation in the QBA scores in both scoring sessions. PC 1 (44.5% in sessions 1 and 2) ranged from the positive descriptors calm, content, relaxed and friendly to the negative descriptors uneasy, vigilant and fearful, and was therefore labelled mood. PC 2 (18% in session 1, 16.6% in session 2) ranged from bright to dejected and apathetic, and was therefore labelled arousal. Kendall’s coefficient of concordance of PC 1 for all observers was high in the two scoring sessions (W = 0.87 and 0.85, respectively), indicating good inter-observer reliability. For PC 2, the agreement for all observers was moderate in both video sessions (W = 0.45 and 0.65). The intra-observer agreement was very high for all observers for PC 1 (W > 0.9) except for one, where the agreement was considered to be high (W = 0.89). For PC 2, Kendall’s coefficient was very high for the veterinary students and interpreted as moderate for the two farmers and welfare inspectors. This study indicates that the QBA approach and the terms included in the Fårebygg protocol were reliable for assessing video recordings of sheep behaviour when applied by trained observers, regardless of whether they were a veterinary student, animal welfare inspector or sheep farmer. Further work is needed to examine the reliability of the QBA protocol when tested on-farms for sheep managed under Norwegian housing systems. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Positive Aspects of Animal Welfare)
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Open AccessArticle
Sow-Piglet Nose Contacts in Free-Farrowing Pens
Animals 2019, 9(8), 513; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9080513 - 31 Jul 2019
Abstract
Nose contact is a frequent form of social behaviour in pigs, but the motivational reasons underlying this behaviour remain unclear. We investigated the frequency, direction and type of sow–piglet nosing behaviour and its association with sow and piglet traits. Social nosing behaviour was [...] Read more.
Nose contact is a frequent form of social behaviour in pigs, but the motivational reasons underlying this behaviour remain unclear. We investigated the frequency, direction and type of sow–piglet nosing behaviour and its association with sow and piglet traits. Social nosing behaviour was recorded by live observations and video recordings in 22 sows and their 249 piglets in free-farrowing pens once weekly during the first three weeks after farrowing (3 times 30 min of observations per litter). Piglet-to-sow nosing occurred on average 32.8 ± 2.35 times per 30 min per litter. Heavier piglets at one week of age nosed the sow more than lighter piglets (p = 0.01). Piglet-to-sow nosing was unrelated to the piglet’s sex or teat order. Sow-to-piglet nosing occurred on average 3.6 ± 0.53 times per 30 min, and this was unrelated to litter size. Primiparous sows nosed their piglets more in the second week after farrowing. Litters in which piglet-to-sow nosing occurred more showed less variation in the expression of this behaviour across the weeks. Social nosing between sow and piglets deserves further research to understand the positive implications of this behaviour for sow and piglet welfare. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Positive Aspects of Animal Welfare)
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Open AccessArticle
Understanding Cows’ Emotions on Farm: Are Eye White and Ear Posture Reliable Indicators?
Animals 2019, 9(8), 477; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9080477 - 24 Jul 2019
Abstract
Understanding the emotions of dairy cows is primarily important in enhancing the level of welfare and provide a better life on farm. This study explored whether eye white and ear posture can reliably contribute to interpret valence and arousal of emotions in dairy [...] Read more.
Understanding the emotions of dairy cows is primarily important in enhancing the level of welfare and provide a better life on farm. This study explored whether eye white and ear posture can reliably contribute to interpret valence and arousal of emotions in dairy cows. The research was conducted in five Italian dairy farms. Four hundred and thirty-six photographs of cows’ heads were scored (four-level), according to the eye white and ear posture during feeding, resting, pasture, and an avoidance distance test at the feeding rack (ADF test). Eye white and ear posture were significantly correlated and influenced by the context (P = 0.001). Pasture was the most relaxing context for cows (67.8% of half-closed eyes; 77.3% ears hung down or backwards). The excitement during ADF test was high, with 44.8% of eye white being clearly visible and ears directed forwards to the approaching assessor (95.5%). Housing and management mostly influenced emotions during feeding and resting (P = 0.002 and P = 0.001, respectively): where competition for feeding places and cubicles was low, the cows showed the highest percentages of half-closed eyes and ears backwards or hung down. This research supports the use of eye white and ear posture as reliable indicators of emotions in dairy cows. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Positive Aspects of Animal Welfare)
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Review

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Open AccessReview
What Is so Positive about Positive Animal Welfare?—A Critical Review of the Literature
Animals 2019, 9(10), 783; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9100783 - 11 Oct 2019
Abstract
It is claimed that positive animal welfare (PAW) developed over the last decade in reaction to animal welfare focusing too much on avoiding negatives. However, it remains unclear what PAW adds to the animal welfare literature and to what extent its ideas are [...] Read more.
It is claimed that positive animal welfare (PAW) developed over the last decade in reaction to animal welfare focusing too much on avoiding negatives. However, it remains unclear what PAW adds to the animal welfare literature and to what extent its ideas are new. Through a critical review of the PAW literature, we aim to separate different aspects of PAW and situate it in relation to the traditional animal welfare literature. We find that the core PAW literature is small (n = 10 papers) but links to wider areas of current research interest. The PAW literature is defined by four features: (1) positive emotions which is arguably the most widely acknowledged; (2) positive affective engagement which serves to functionally link positive emotions to goal-directed behavior; (3) quality of life which serves to situate PAW within the context of finding the right balance of positives over negatives; (4) happiness which brings a full life perspective to PAW. While the two first points are already part of welfare research going back decades, the two latter points could be linked to more recent research agendas concerning aggregation and how specific events may affect the ability of animals to make the best of their lives. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Positive Aspects of Animal Welfare)
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Open AccessReview
How Can We Assess Positive Welfare in Ruminants?
Animals 2019, 9(10), 758; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9100758 - 02 Oct 2019
Abstract
Until now, most research has focused on the development of indicators of negative welfare, and relatively few studies provide information on valid, reliable, and feasible indicators addressing positive aspects of animal welfare. However, a lack of suffering does not guarantee that animals are [...] Read more.
Until now, most research has focused on the development of indicators of negative welfare, and relatively few studies provide information on valid, reliable, and feasible indicators addressing positive aspects of animal welfare. However, a lack of suffering does not guarantee that animals are experiencing a positive welfare state. The aim of the present review is to identify promising valid and reliable animal-based indicators for the assessment of positive welfare that might be included in welfare assessment protocols for ruminants, and to discuss them in the light of the five domains model, highlighting possible gaps to be filled by future research. Based on the existing literature in the main databases, each indicator was evaluated in terms of its validity, reliability, and on-farm feasibility. Some valid indicators were identified, but a lot of the validity evidence is based on their absence when a negative situation is present; furthermore, only a few indicators are available in the domains of Nutrition and Health. Reliability has been seldom addressed. On-farm feasibility could be increased by developing specific sampling strategies and/or relying on the use of video- or automatic-recording devices. In conclusion, several indicators are potentially available (e.g., synchronisation of lying and feeding, coat or fleece condition, qualitative behaviour assessment), but further research is required. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Positive Aspects of Animal Welfare)
Open AccessReview
Effects of Environmental Enrichment on Pig Welfare—A Review
Animals 2019, 9(6), 383; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9060383 - 22 Jun 2019
Abstract
Good husbandry conditions on farms is of key importance for assuring animal welfare. One of the most important legal documents regulating the rules of maintaining pigs is the Directive 2008/120/EC, which states that group-housed pigs should have access to litter or other materials [...] Read more.
Good husbandry conditions on farms is of key importance for assuring animal welfare. One of the most important legal documents regulating the rules of maintaining pigs is the Directive 2008/120/EC, which states that group-housed pigs should have access to litter or other materials that provide exploration and occupation. Released in 2016, the Commission Recommendation (EU) 2016/336 on the application of the Council Directive 2008/120/EC characterizes the various categories of materials that may be used to improve animal welfare. According to the document, straw is considered as an optimal material for pig housing, however, materials categorized as suboptimal (e.g., wood bark) and materials of marginal interest (e.g., plastic toys) are often used in practice and scientific research. As such, the aim of this paper is to review and systematize the current state of knowledge on the topic of the impact of environmental enrichment on pig welfare. This article raises mainly issues, such as the effectiveness of the use of various enrichment on the reduction of undesirable behavior—tail biting; aggression; and stereotypies at the pre-weaning, post-weaning, and fattening stage of pig production. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Positive Aspects of Animal Welfare)
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