From operant learning to cognitive enrichment in farm animal housing: bases and applicability
Authors: Manteuffel, G; Langbein, J; Puppe, B
Source: Animal Welfare, Volume 18, Number 1, February 2009 , pp. 87-95(9)
Publisher: Universities Federation for Animal Welfare
Abstract:This study has its basis in recent findings by our own and other laboratories and proposes a type of rewarded operant learning that seeks the detection of discriminatory cues as a cognitive enrichment in intensive husbandry systems. This type of cognitive enrichment has the ability to activate the intrinsically-rewarding mesolimbic brain axis when an animal acquires successful strategies to cope with environmental demands. It provides animals with the opportunity to develop positive affects through control of their environment and the anticipation of consummatory reward. If true animal welfare is considered more than simply the absence of stress and harm, provoking better affective conditions may be a suitable way of increasing the well-being of intensively-housed animals. Recent research with elaborated operant learning equipment, under experimental and quasi-commercial conditions, revealed better health, reduced boredom and less maladaptive behaviour as potentially practical advantages. A number of the issues regarding the transfer of this suggested form of cognitive enrichment to large scale, commercial farming are discussed.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: February 1, 2009