The importance of Ethology F12
Animal Behaviour Consultants & Dept. Psychology, University of Exter, Devon, UK.
|Prof. Fölsch has described how important
ethology is for organic agriculture in the sense of outlining the types of behaviour the
different animals species have, and their basic "ethogram": how they behave,
interact, organise themselves, and how much time they spend in various activities. This,
as he points out, allows us to have a blue print for the design of appropriate
environments for the different species which will increase their wellbeing, and
consequently that of their keepers.
I want to address the question of: a) How do we know when we have got it right for the animal and b) Where do we draw the lines on how far we go in the direction of designing their environments to cater for the animals physical, behavioural and intellectual needs, and why should we draw the lines where we do? c) How do we assess the ethological consequences and appropriateness of the animal husbandry systems, which must be implicit in organic farming systems?
a) This must involve being able to assess and measure suffering of the animal (both physically and behaviourally). Equally, it must be possible to measure pleasure in animals. Preliminary ways in which this may be done are presented. There remain debates on how much suffering and/or pleasure should be acceptable for the requirements of improves welfare and thus the organic standards. Guidelines are suggested where these base-lines should be drawn.
b) Ethology can also help us develop guidelines on how to design an animals environment to fulfil his physical, emotional and intellectual needs. We have considerable information on the first 2 of these criteria as a result of detailed ethograms on the majority of farm (and many wild) animals now and we could more closely fulfil these, if we wished. We have less information on the animals cognitive/intellectual needs and abilities which are the remaining question for improving animal welfare. This is an area where the author is currently conducting research.
c) Guidelines for the ecological criteria necessary in assessing the appropriate husbandry of the various species are drawn up and discussed. what is the local and global effect of the animal keeping enterprise? A crucial consideration for organic agriculture.
How animals' husbandry systems can and should be changed to accommodate these ethological and ecological concerns are discussed with particular reference to dairy & beef cattle, pigs, horses and chickens.
In this way it is demonstrated that the importance of ethology is crucial for the development of improved organic animal husbandry systems.