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The Human-Animal Relationship in Agriculture and Its Consequences for the Animal

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 January 2023

P H Hemsworth*
Victorian Institute of Animal Science, Department of Agriculture, 475 Mickleham Road, Attwood, Victoria, 3049, Australia
J L Barnett
Victorian Institute of Animal Science, Department of Agriculture, 475 Mickleham Road, Attwood, Victoria, 3049, Australia
G J Coleman
Department of Psychology, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Victoria, 3068, Australia
Contact for correspondence and requests for reprints


Although human factors are recognized as influential factors affecting the welfare and productivity of farm animals, only limited research has been conducted to identify these important human characteristics and to quantify their effects. During the last 13 years we have studied two apparently important human factors: the attitude and the behaviour of stockpersons towards farm animals.

We have proposed that in intensive animal production systems there are some important sequential relationships between the attitude and behaviour of the stockperson towards farm animals and the behaviour, performance and welfare of farm animals. Basically we have suggested that because a stockperson's behaviour towards animals is largely under volitional control it is strongly influenced by the attitudes and beliefs that the stockperson holds about the animals. Furthermore, the stockperson's behaviour towards animals affects the animals’ fear of humans which, in turn, affects the animals’ productivity and welfare. It is the occurrence of a stress response by animals which are highly fearful of humans which places their productivity and welfare at risk We have published data which strongly support these interrelationships between human attitude and behaviour and animal behaviour, productivity and welfare. This paper reviews this and other research on this subject. The results of research in the pig industry and to a lesser extent, the poultry industries indicate the excellent opportunity which exists to improve animal productivity and welfare by training and selecting stockpersons to have desirable attitudinal and behavioural profiles towards farm animals.

Research Article
© 1993 Universities Federation for Animal Welfare

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