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The animal feelgood factor

New research investigates connections between animals’ emotions and welfare.

Happy pigs

There is broad consensus that animals can have positive as well as negative experiences. Scientists are now investigating the links between animals ‘feeling well’ and ‘being healthy’. Successfully demonstrating this relationship would help to illustrate that positive animal welfare is of benefit to animals as well as people.

The team has already obtained results that point in this direction. They found that litters of pigs that play the most also grow the fastest, suggesting that what benefits animals can also benefit farmers and, ultimately, consumers.

The work is funded by the Scottish Government and led by Professor Alistair Lawrence, who is Chair of Animal Behaviour and Welfare at Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and the University of Edinburgh / The Roslin Institute.

Promoting positive welfare in animals is perhaps rather similar to promoting mental wellbeing in ourselves. It is a slightly different way of thinking about things but the benefits could be significant.

Professor Alistair LawrenceSRUC and the University of Edinburgh

The possible connections between animals’ positive feelings and their welfare have been highlighted by Professor Lawrence in a research briefing by SRUC’s Rural Policy Centre.

The Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) was first to point to the policy implications of positive animal welfare, framing the idea of animals having a ‘good life’ within a broader vision of continuing to improve farm animal welfare standards.

Useful links

Research briefing - Positive farm animal welfare: Something in it for everyone

Prestigious award for Professor in animal behaviour and welfare

Animal welfare on the Easter Bush Campus


Mr Tom Maxwell

Senior Communications Officer

  • Scotand’s Rural College (SRUC)

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