Learning About Animals was set up to provide information and promote interest in
the welfare and behaviour of animals. The aim is to bridge the gap between professionals
& scientists working with animals and the public.
If you have any suggestions for future events, if you would like to be considered
to be a speaker, or if you would like to get involved in helping at the events, or
projects please get in touch.
1. Computerised behavioural studies to determine the body language of mice LINK
Including first aid for dog professionals, day with Helen Zulch and more.
Just in case you missed it - a selection of some of the LAA Facebook posts since
the November Newsletter
1. "....behavior modification recommendations should emphasize long exposures to
weak triggers". In my experience, this is one of the most important things I regularly
explain to clients -this article explains why.
3. Word of the day: I like the word "pinnae" - the plural of pinna, which is the
outer ear, the bit of the ear you can see (because it isn't inside the head). Was
just using it in a presentation I'm writing when I figured I should probably just
say 'ears' but it is a word that isn't used often enough...
4. Five photo tricks that help dogs get adopted. This article summarises a study
published in Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science about the types of photos
that help rescue dogs to get adopted, also relevant if you want to get great photos
of your pets. LINK
5. Lovely 5 minute film about wild burros - includes interesting footage of a burro
digging for water LINK
6. Is the sense of spirituality the next trait commonly considered to be unique to
humans to be shown to exist in animals? "Goodall witnessed chimps performing a specific
kind of swaying dance around large waterfalls, in thunderstorms, and during heavy
rains. This dance suggests a sense of ceremony and appreciation of the natural world"
7. When people lie rabbits on their backs and think they are hypnotized they are
so so mistaken. The rabbit is most likely in state called Tonic Immobility - playing
dead and a last ditch attempt for survival. The more frequently you put the rabbit
into this state the quicker they go into it. Horrible, stressful and totally unethical,
it is great to see this message on a mainstream site such as The Dodo. LINK
Welfare in dog training
You might have seen the recent media storm regarding an episode of Cesar Milan's
TV show. Appropriately qualified behaviourists have welfare concerns about every
episode but the one that has received a lot of attention recently involved a dog
known for being aggressive towards pigs was set free in an area with a tethered pig
and the pig was badly bitten. The methods of behaviour modification used do not remotely
resemble the way qualified behaviourists woud work on such an issue.
To learn more about why Cesar Milan’s methods are not appropriate please see the
Welfare in Dog Training website. It is sometimes not only the welfare of the dog
that needs to be taken into consideration during dog training. We hope that this
case will bring more attention to just how wrong the methods promoted in this show
The applicance of (equine) science
Early in 2015, the media delighted in saying our chances of suffering from cancer
was genetic pot-luck. By the end of the year, with the excesses of Christmas looming
and obesity in the political cross-hairs of the new Chief Medical Officer, the press
jumped on the chance to report the likelihood of getting cancer is 80% lifestyle-related
and only 20% genetic. What are we supposed to believe?...
In the horse-world, where it seems there are very few certainties, having some claim
to ‘science’ can lend an air of authority, and give you the edge over your competitors.
Also, with the rise of geek-chic and the internet, science is suddenly cool. No wonder
there has been a clamor for equine businesses to use it in their marketing! It doesn’t
matter that when the average horse owner sees ‘science’ attached to a service or
product, it can be met with anything from suspicion and rejection, to unquestioning
compliance and a feeling of self-justification.
So, let’s get under the skin of science. How valid are customer testimonies (beyond
the ‘placebo-effect’), where is science done, who funds it, where are the papers,
how do you interpret them, how can you spot the limitations? ….and maybe we’ll take
a closer look at those cancer headlines, while we’re at it!
3. Horse behaviour workshop with Ben Hart, Oban (Scotland) 19th and 20th March LINK
4. Two-day behaviour seminar with Dr Helen Spence, (Oxfordshire), 16&17 April, LINK
The Good News Box
Krill are tiny shrimp-like creatures and a cornerstone of the Antarctic food chain.
Hundreds of marine creatures like whales, penguins, and seals rely on them krill
for survival. Recently, a petition was successful in causing Sainsburys to stop selling
a product made from krill oil. A huge step towards protecting the pristine Antarctic
from companies that are greedily looking to profit off crucial natural resources.
Petitions can work if they are targeted, realistic and communicated well. Brilliant
news for krill.
Should we ban the tethering of ponies in the UK? I strongly believe that a ban on
tethering would cause more equines to suffer. This answer sometimes surprises people
but let's consider the welfare issues.... Many of us regularly encounter ponies that
are tethered without access to shelter, water or other horses. This is an obvious
welfare issue but what are the alternatives? If tethering was banned what would happen?
Evidence strongly shows that when tethering is prevented the horses are moved out
of sight but usually to even less suitable environments. When kept in ramshackle
stables that are rarely cleaned, and where food and water provision is often woefully
inadequate, animals suffer more than they would if they were tethered. And even more
worryingly it is then more difficult for welfare organisations and concerned members
of the public to monitor the animals.
The answer lies not in campaigning for banning practices that we don't like to see,
but in working to address the cause of the problem, through education and appropriate
community engagement. It won't change things over night but is better than driving
problems behind closed doors.
I am now IAABC certified, so officially a ‘Certified Horse Behaviour Consultant’
I run behaviour consultations to help people with concerns about their horse’s behaviour.
I also run ‘behaviour lessons’ for people who are just interested in learning more
in a practical way - like a riding instructor but learning about the practical application
of behaviour knowledge, tailored to you and your horse.
Please get in touch to find out more.
Human behaviour change for animal welfare
The First International Conference on Human Behaviour Change for Animal Welfare will
take place in September 2016. A common response from people upon learning I am organising
a conference on human behaviour change for animal welfare is “Great, sounds interesting.
What does that mean?” This blog explores the different elements of human behaviour
change and why many of us working in animal welfare believe that we can benefit from
learning about human, as well as animal, behaviour. LINK
Consider submitting an abstract to present a talk or poster at the conference, we
welcome abstracts from individuals as well as organisations and charities.