In October last year, UFAW launched an award for up to £50,000 to support innovative research in animal welfare science. The award is to be used to support research activities anywhere in the world which are aimed at advancing animal welfare or improving our understanding of animal welfare challenges.
The award could be used to support research into welfare of any animal species, including farm, zoo, companion, laboratory and wild or feral animals, where this is affected by human activities.
UFAW is delighted to announce that Professor Michael Mendl, Professor of Animal Behaviour & Welfare at the University of Bristol, has been awarded a grant for his project “Developing new thermographic methods to assess emotional valence by measuring thermal lateralization”.
A key determinant of an animal’s welfare is its emotional valence, that is, its current experience of positive or negative affective states. While we cannot be certain about non-human animals conscious experiences, an important goal of animal welfare science is to develop better proxy measures of affective states. In addition, there is a need for scientific assessment of animal welfare under field conditions. For example on-farm welfare assessment often relies on time consuming animal-based measures that may or may not reflect affective states, and/or monitoring the resources provided to livestock rather than the animals themselves.
Quick, accurate, practicable and cost effective methods for measuring emotional valence in situ are needed but, at present, such methods are few and far between. This year-long project aims to confirm the use of thermography as an indicator of emotional wellbeing and will study cattle and hens to develop a prompt, accurate and cost-effective welfare measurement method that can be implemented under lab and field conditions, and generalised to other animal species.