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Environmental choices of farm animals

  • C J. Nicol (a1)

Abstract

To assess farm animal welfare we need to understand how animals make choices and how these choices relate to preference strength. Studies of environmental choice can be categorized by the method used to investigate them, or by the underlying basis on which the animal is choosing. Choices made between resources that vary along a single dimension should meet certain criteria e.g. those of transitivity. Choices made between resources that vary along more than one dimension may or may not meet these criteria, depending how the animal evaluates each option. Understanding how farm animals choose will allow the results of individual experiments to be applied in a wider context. It is also important to know how preferences are formed during development. Evidence suggests that preferences for nests and pecking substrates in hens may be influenced by prefunctional experience. Experimental data from studies of environmental choice may enable us either to provide important resources in commercial systems, or to provide facilities for animals to continue to make their own decisions.

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