Perception et compréhension des signaux

Perception and understanding of signals and the difficult question of welfare assessment. A large part of the team's research was focused on this question during these last years.

Photo montrant un cheval derrière des barreaux
  1. Identifier des indicateurs de bien-être visibles
  2. Le jeux chez les adultes n'indique pas nécessairement un bien-être
  3. Les modèles animaux comme modèles alternatifs pour les troubles humains tels que la dépression

Identifier des indicateurs de bien-être visibles

Although scales of welfare assessment exist for farm animals, scales are missing for other domestic species and they require that the humans that interact with these animals are able to perceive and understand the signals. A series of studies with horses and primates (coll. Team 3 and E. Bézard, Bordeaux) showed that in addition to known indicators of altered welfare (e.g. stereotypies), others could be evidenced (e.g. facing a wall, vacuum chewing, apathy, postures). By developing a multifactorial approach combining sanitary, physiological and ethological evaluations, we were able to propose a range of visible indicators and to reassess some common beliefs.

Le jeux chez les adultes n'indique pas nécessairement un bien-être

Thus, aggressive animals are not "bad" animals but they are probably suffering from chronic pain; play by adult animals does not necessarily indicate a good welfare state. Because signals are overlooked or misunderstood, the animals' management is often not improved. This is also an opportunity to disentangle the mechanisms that are source of interpretation of others' signals. Thus, a large scale study with more than 370 horses showed a discrepancy between ethological evaluation of the prevalence of stereotypic horses (37%) and evaluation by questionnaires answered by the familiar caretaker (5%). One remarkable aspect was that the discrepancy was highest in facilities where more than 70% of the horses expressed stereotypies.

Les modèles animaux comme modèles alternatifs pour les troubles humains tels que la dépression

Overexposure, that is considering the surrounding population as a norm, thus emerged as a major factor of under-evaluation of welfare and misunderstanding of signals. This is a question also for human intensive care services. This research on welfare indicators for horses and primates is an important part of the team's societal investment. We propose alternative animal models for human disorders such as depression, suggesting that spontaneous models emerging from usual daily situations that can be source of chronic stress could help disentangling the processes of emergence of such disorders. Our studies are also a source of inspiration on how to promote welfare by improving practices, ex social, feeding or housing conditions, but also, as mentioned earlier, developmental conditions.