The happiness of the chicken, who knows?

Professor Nicole Kompey from the Hannover Veterinary University Foundation knows how to evaluate and improve the physical and mental health of livestock and poultry.

Every Wednesday, Songya Hellermahe will carefully observe how her chicken is going. In the chicken pens of the Franken Foster Teaching and Research Station of the University of Bonn, thousands of laying hens were weighed and subjected to feather inspections and behavioral tests-such as whether they could remain calm when faced with the feed of the breeder, and whether they usually Will be interested in strange objects that appear in the chicken pen.

Objects that disrupt the peaceful life of the hen will appear every six weeks, such as a red ball or a toy rubber boat. After more than six weeks, they will forget that they have seen these gadgets, so these items can be reused. The calmer these hens react to people, the less fuss they are, and the more curious they are about toys, the better their lives will be. Fear and pain inhibit the natural behavior of animals.

Hellermacher wanted to know how to improve the lives of chickens, to study whether they prefer round or polygonal perches, where they like to lay their eggs, and what effects the various lights will have on them. These conditions should be as close as possible to the breeding environment of about 42 million German laying hens, so that the results of behavioral research can be used by the economic community.

Hellermacher’s mentor Inga Timan has been studying the abilities and preferences of chickens for more than 20 years. He said that recently people have begun to realize that it is not necessary to adapt animals to our feeding methods, but the other way around. Most importantly, animal health is far more than just being free from suffering.

Considering the living conditions of many domestic animals in Germany, all this sounds like a crazy utopia, and the traditional way of large-scale breeding is far from the minimum requirements for animal health. Many regulations for improving pigs, cows, sheep and other animals that have been promulgated long ago cannot be implemented, and the tug-of-war is protracted. The implementation of the ban on castration of piglets without anesthesia and the ban on slaughter of young roosters have set a long transition period. The minister in charge of such affairs, Julia Klockner, did not succeed in ending the apparent suffering of captive animals, but recently introduced dog-walking regulations: Now, dogs should go out for fresh air twice a day for at least one hour a day.

“As far as I know, no law is as hypocritical as the “Animal Protection Act”.” Professor Stefen Augsberg of Giessen University commented. The effectiveness of the law is repeatedly discounted until it is completely useless. The animal protection labels that businesses like to use to decorate their products are just beautiful gimmicks to make consumers’ conscience a little more peaceful, and often only reflect a slight improvement in the breeding conditions.

Augsberg is a vegetarian and a member of the German Ethics Committee. He co-authored the book “Respect for Animal Welfare-Responsible Treatment of Livestock and Poultry” with other authors. “Currently, the way of raising livestock and poultry is unsustainable,” Augsberg said. “We want to discuss this.” Not surprisingly, this article also calls for more firm enforcement of relevant laws and a complete change. The way of looking at animals.

By measuring the cow’s stress hormone level and heart rate, we can indirectly know their emotions.

Animal welfare is the central goal of the Animal Protection Law, but what exactly is animal welfare? How to measure? How happy is the pig? How to answer these questions without anthropomorphizing animals is a huge challenge currently facing the field of behavioral science. There is no doubt that animals can perceive pain, fear and stress, but will a pig that always stays in a monotonous environment feel as boring as a human?

Contact with people can improve the mood of pigs.

Sara Henze, a veterinarian from the Institute of Animal Science of the University of Vienna, has developed a method to test the animal’s sense of the world based on scientific standards, not human intuition. She knows what makes the calf more optimistic and how the cage structure affects the behavior of the mice. Scratching the pig’s belly is likely to make them happy. “Finding a way to measure the emotions of livestock and poultry can improve their lives.” Henze said. Now, she and her colleagues are trying to unify the standards in the field of “study on livestock happiness”.

There are currently some tests that measure animal emotions, and some indirect conclusions can be drawn from stress hormone levels and heart rate. A very important angle is to measure the degree of boredom and the consequences of animals. There is no dispute that monotony is one of the main problems in traditional animal feeding, but for domestic animals and poultry, whether unbearable chronic boredom will trigger addiction or depression as in human society is still unclear.

In a test, Henze first let these animals know that something would happen after a certain stimulus, such as a small snack immediately after a high-frequency sound, but not a low-frequency sound. So, if you hear a midrange, it is neither as high as the sound that announces food, nor as low as the one without food, how will the pig react? If they still turn to the trough, it is a sign of optimism, otherwise it means that they are not so expecting good luck. Henze and two colleagues have done this test on cows and found that they are more emotional when they are paired up than when they are reared alone.

Contact with people can improve the mood of pigs. “Most pigs love to be in contact with people,” Henze said. “They lie upright like dogs, close their eyes and enjoy people scratching their stomachs.”

A few simple measures can improve the happiness of animals. In the chicken coop in Bonn, the sun shines through the windows on a good day. The place where the sun can reach the sun is always occupied quickly. All animals flood into the natural light to take a sand bath or go Other activities called “comfortable behavior” by researchers.

These scientists use artificial light to let the chickens rest better. Although there is a crossbar in the chicken pen for them to roost, many animals have not flew on the crossbar before the lights are turned off at night, so they have to sleep on the ground. Because chicken poop is not cleaned up in time, the ground is often dirty, and the ammonia content in the air keeps rising. In Bonn, different lights will be used in each area of ​​the cage, and the lights in the sleeping area will be turned off at the latest, so that most chickens will find the right resting place. When a hen lays eggs, the environment of the chicken house can also be improved by changing the lighting.

In addition, Hellermacher and Timan also wanted to study the impact of cage paving conditions on the health and well-being of chickens. These poultry experts wanted to test whether coarser chopped hay compared to sawdust can improve the atmosphere of the cage and whether it is more popular with these animals than traditional choices.

This summer, these researchers will introduce research results to animal breeders and tell them what measures can effectively improve animal health. “It is certain that functionally differentiated lighting can benefit these animals a lot.” Timan explained. “We can only provide a theoretical basis,” Henze added. “What we can use them for is up to society.”

Attorney Augsberg does not think that people in the future will think that today’s animal husbandry methods are correct. He said: “50 years from now, people will be shocked when they look back on what they are today.”