Assessment of positive emotions in animals to improve their welfare

INRA, UR1213 Herbivores, Site de Theix, F-63122 Saint-Genès-Champanelle, France.
Physiology & Behavior (Impact Factor: 2.98). 11/2007; 92(3):375-97. DOI: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2007.02.003
Source: PubMed


It is now widely accepted that good welfare is not simply the absence of negative experiences, but rather is primarily the presence of positive experiences such as pleasure. However scientific investigation of positive emotions has long been neglected. This paper addresses two main issues: first, it reviews the current state of scientific knowledge that supports the existence of positive affective states in animals and, second, it suggests possible applications of this knowledge that may enhance quality of life under animal management conditions. In the first part of the paper, recent advances in psychology and neuroscience are reviewed to provide pragmatic frameworks based on cognitive processes (such as positive anticipation, contrast and controllability) for further investigations of positive emotions in animals. Thereafter, the neurobiological bases of positive emotions are highlighted in order to identify behavioral and physiological expressions of positive experiences in animals. Monitoring both the autonomic nervous system (via heart rate and its variability) and the immune system could offer relevant tools to better assess emotional states in animals, complementary to classical adrenocortical measures. In the second part of the paper, useful strategies for enhancing positive experiences (such as physical, social and cognitive enrichment or putative genetic selection) are outlined. Then this paper emphasizes practical applications for assessing and promoting positive emotions that may help in providing animals with a better quality of life. Play, affiliative behaviors and some vocalizations appear to be the most promising convenient indicators for assessing positive experiences in laboratory and farm animals under commercial conditions.

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