Farm Animal Cognition – Linking Behaviour, Welfare and Ethics

Are farm animals smart? And if yes, why should we care? In recent decades, research on the cognitive capacities of non-human animals has gained increasing attention. However, compared to the amount of research that has been conducted on some model species, studies on the cognitive capacities of farm animals are heavily underrepresented. Given the number of livestock animals worldwide, this lack of research is surprising because knowledge of the mental capacities of farm animals is highly relevant as it can affect their welfare. We need to understand how farm animals perceive their physical and social environment to appropriately assess their ability to cope with husbandry systems and to provide them with opportunities to fulfil their cognitive needs (e.g. via enrichment).

This review by AWRN-member Christian Nawroth and colleagues aims to outline the current state of farm animal cognition research, considering aspects such as categorisation, numerical ability, object permanence, tool use, individual discrimination and recognition, communication with humans and social learning.

Leibnitz-Insitut für Nutztierbiologie Dummerstorf (FBN)
Photo credit: Thomas Häntzschel / nordlicht www.fotoagenturnordlicht.de

Nawroth C, Langbein J, Coulon M, Gabor V, Oesterwind S, Benz-Schwarzburg J and von Borell E (2019) Farm Animal Cognition—Linking Behavior, Welfare and Ethics. Front. Vet. Sci. 6:24.

 

Full article / DOI can be found here.