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Episode 190: Dr Michaela Hempen: Assessing Animal Welfare

We are joined again by Dr. Michaela Hempen, but this time, Michaela is not talking about Blondie and the cribbing project, but about her day job. Michaela works for the European Food Safety Agency. The EFSA looks at anything related to food safety, including animal health. It provides risk assessments which give the European Commission or European member states the scientific basis for legislation. The European Commission will be revising all farm animal welfare legislation, and part of this will be based on scientific assessments of their welfare. Michaela has become involved in this project which means she has been on a steep learning curve to familiarize herself with the field of animal welfare.

In this podcast we talk about preference tests. Whether it’s a laying hen or a horse how do you measure what animals want?


Here is a link to the animal welfare risk assessment activities of EFSA and links to the legislative framework in the EU

The call for tender is published here

Deadline for submitting the offer is 25 August 2022


Choice tests:

This is the study assessing the strength of preference for straw bedding in sows by measuring the number of nose presses to open door to enrichment

Arey, D. S. (1992). Straw and food as reinforcers for prepartal sows. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 33(2-3), 217-226.

This is the study assessing the strength of preference for enrichment items by measuring running speed in rats

Hanmer, L. A., Riddell, P. M., & Williams, C. M. (2010). Using a runway paradigm to assess the relative strength of rats’ motivations for enrichment objects. Behavior research methods, 42(2), 517-524.

This is the study assessing avoidance in broilers after experiencing "transport" condition

Abeyesinghe, S. M., Wathes, C. M., Nicol, C. J., & Randall, J. M. (2001). The aversion of broiler chickens to concurrent vibrational and thermal stressors. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 73(3), 199-215.


Mischel's marshmallow test is summarised in this paper

Mischel, W. (1984). Convergences and challenges in the search for consistency. American Psychologist, 39(4), 351.

Pigeons choosing the delayed larger reward

Mazur, J. E., & Logue, A. W. (1978). Choice in a “self‐control” paradigm: Effects of a fading procedure. Journal of the experimental analysis of behavior, 30(1), 11-17.

Rachlin, H., & Green, L. (1972). Commitment, choice and self‐control 1. Journal of the experimental analysis of behavior, 17(1), 15-22.


• Summary of animal welfare science

The Science of Animal Welfare: Understanding What Animals Want (138 pp)

Marian Stamp Dawkins

• Animal welfare textbook

Broom and Fraser's Domestic Animal Behaviour and Welfare (576 pp)

• Reconciling cognition and behaviorism

Judgment, decision, and choice: A cognitive/behavioral synthesis (287 pp)

Howard Rachlin, 1989

von Borstel, U. U., Duncan, I. J. H., Shoveller, A. K., Merkies, K., Keeling, L. J., & Millman, S. T. (2009). Impact of riding in a coercively obtained Rollkur posture on welfare and fear of performance horses. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 116(2-4), 228-236.


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