The British Association for the Advancement of Science: Animal happiness 'key to farm productivity'

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The Independent Online
IN THE FARM of the future, pigs will not only be able to forage freely for their food, they will be trained to operate cold showers to cool themselves when the weather gets hot.

Hens will be given the ability to turn on heaters - infra-red lamps - when they feel a bit chilly, and mice in the science laboratory will turn lights on and off according to when they want to go to sleep, Dr Chris Sherwin, of the University of Bristol, told the meeeting.

Research has already shown that pigs would benefit from playing with a see-saw to keep them from getting bored while they are fattening up for the dinner table. Dr Sherwin told his audience that the see-saw was set up straddling two pens, and the pigs liked to pull at it, creating an effectively random change in the environment.

The idea, Dr Sherwin explained, was to give animals more control over their own environment, so that they could escape from things they found unpleasant or choose when they wanted to eat. Thus a pig could cool down on a hot day by pulling a chain attached to cold shower tap.

Happy animals are productive animals but most broiler chickens are unhappy, according to Dr Bryan Jones, of the Roslin Institute in Scotland. In particular, it is widely thought that the chicken's predominant reaction to human beings is one of fear.

Although some might consider this a sign of intelligent anticipation on the part of the chickens, Dr Jones believes that such understanding of brute reality is undesirable. He believes that rearers should pick their chickens up and stroke them gently in an attempt to reduce their fear.