[Paleopsych] Sunday Times (UK): The secret life of moody cows

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The secret life of moody cows
February 27, 2005

     Jonathan Leake, Science Editor
     ONCE they were a byword for mindless docility. But cows have a secret
     mental life in which they bear grudges, nurture friendships and become
     excited over intellectual challenges, scientists have found.

     Cows are also capable of feeling strong emotions such as pain, fear
     and even anxiety -- they worry about the future. But if farmers
     provide the right conditions, they can also feel great happiness.

     The findings have emerged from studies of farm animals that have found
     similar traits in pigs, goats, chickens and other livestock. They
     suggest that such animals may be so emotionally similar to humans that
     welfare laws need to be rethought.

     Christine Nicol, professor of animal welfare at Bristol University,
     said even chickens may have to be treated as individuals with needs
     and problems.

     "Remarkable cognitive abilities and cultural innovations have been
     revealed," she said. "Our challenge is to teach others that every
     animal we intend to eat or use is a complex individual, and to adjust
     our farming culture accordingly."

     Nicol will be presenting her findings to a scientific conference to be
     held in London next month by Compassion in World Farming, the animal
     welfare lobby group.

     John Webster, professor of animal husbandry at Bristol, has just
     published a book on the topic, Animal Welfare: Limping Towards Eden.
     "People have assumed that intelligence is linked to the ability to
     suffer and that because animals have smaller brains they suffer less
     than humans. That is a pathetic piece of logic," he said.

     Webster and his colleagues have documented how cows within a herd form
     smaller friendship groups of between two and four animals with whom
     they spend most of their time, often grooming and licking each other.
     They will also dislike other cows and can bear grudges for months or

     Dairy cow herds can also be intensely sexual. Webster describes how
     the cows become excited when one of the herd comes into heat and start
     trying to mount her. "Cows look calm, but really they are gay
     nymphomaniacs," he said.

     Donald Broom, professor of animal welfare at Cambridge University, who
     is presenting other research at the conference, will describe how cows
     can also become excited by solving intellectual challenges.

     In one study, researchers challenged the animals with a task where
     they had to find how to open a door to get some food. An
     electroencephalograph was used to measure their brainwaves.

     "Their brainwaves showed their excitement; their heartbeat went up and
     some even jumped into the air. We called it their Eureka moment," said

     The assumption that farm animals cannot suffer from conditions that
     would be considered intolerable for humans is partly based on the idea
     that they are less intelligent than people and have no "sense of

     Increasingly, however, research reveals this to be untrue. Keith
     Kendrick, professor of neurobiology at the Babraham Institute in
     Cambridge, has found that even sheep are far more complex than
     realised and can remember 50 ovine faces -- even in profile. They can
     recognise another sheep after a year apart.

     Kendrick has also described how sheep can form strong affections for
     particular humans, becoming depressed by long separations and greeting
     them enthusiastically even after three years.

     The Compassion in World Farming conference will be opened with a
     keynote speech by Jane Goodall, the primatologist who founded the
     study of animal sentience with her research into chimpanzees in the
     early 1960s.

     Goodall overturned the then accepted belief that animals were simply
     automatons showing little individuality or emotions. It has taken many
     years, however, for scientists to accept that such ideas could be
     applied to a wide range of other animals.

     "Sentient animals have the capacity to experience pleasure and are
     motivated to seek it," said Webster. "You only have to watch how cows
     and lambs both seek and enjoy pleasure when they lie with their heads
     raised to the sun on a perfect English summer's day. Just like

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