About this Research Topic
Farm animal welfare is of major concern for society and food production. In order to provide good welfare to farm animals, it is necessary to understand their behaviour and cognitive functioning. Thus, knowledge of how farm animals perceive and deal with their physical and social environment is crucial for applied ethology as it allows adjusting management practices to the animals’ specific behaviour and needs. In addition, cognitive processes and affective states of farm animals are intrinsically interlinked, and cognitive research thus provides new opportunities to improve animal emotional experiences. Furthermore, consumers' perception of how animals should be treated is often based on their beliefs in animals’ cognitive capabilities.
Contrasting these promising prospects, animal cognitive research so far mainly focused on a few prominent model species (such as primates, canids, corvids), while relatively few studies have been conducted on livestock so far. To promote investigations of farm animal cognitive capacities and their implications for animal welfare-related issues, the objectives of this Research Topic are I) to present state of the art research on farm animal learning and cognition, II) to highlight future perspectives in this research area, III) to pinpoint shortcomings and limitations in the interpretation of the available data, IV) to provide new cross-disciplinary frameworks (e.g. links between affective states and cognition), and V) to discuss applied implementation of previous and current findings (e.g. cognitive enrichment).
This Research Topic thus aims to collect original research and review articles, as well as opinions and perspectives. Potential authors are welcome to submit articles on topics such as learning (e.g. discrimination, generalization, categorization), casual understanding of the physical environment, social cognition (e.g. social learning, human-animal interactions), and interdisciplinary issues affecting animal welfare (e.g. applied ethics and belief in animal mind). We highly welcome findings supporting the null hypothesis, because to provide good welfare it is also important to know what farm animals are not capable of in order not to expose them to tasks they cannot solve, and to avoid overwhelming them.
In conclusion, the contributions in this Research Topic will increase our understanding of how farm animals interact with their environment and aim to pave the way for new cross-disciplinary endeavours.
Keywords: Animal Welfare, Learning, Livestock, Physical cognition, Social cognition