Qualitative Behavioural Assessment of emotionality in pigs

Appl Anim Behav Sci. 2012 Jul;139(3-4):218-224. doi: 10.1016/j.applanim.2012.04.004.


Scientific assessment of affective states in animals is challenging but vital for animal welfare studies. One possible approach is Qualitative Behavioural Assessment (QBA), a 'whole animal' methodology which integrates information from multiple behavioural signals and styles of behavioural expression (body language) directly in terms of an animal's emotional expression. If QBA provides a valid measure of animals' emotional state it should distinguish between groups where emotional states have been manipulated. To test this hypothesis, QBA was applied to video-recordings of pigs, following treatment with either saline or the neuroleptic drug Azaperone, in either an open field or elevated plus-maze test. QBA analysis of these recordings was provided by 12 observers, blind to treatment, using a Free Choice Profiling (FCP) methodology. Generalised Procrustes Analysis was used to calculate a consensus profile, consisting of the main dimensions of expression. Dimension one was positively associated with terms such as 'Confident' and 'Curious' and negatively with 'Unsure' and 'Nervous'. Dimension two ranged from 'Agitated'/'Angry' to 'Calm'/'Relaxed'. In both tests, Azaperone pre-treatment was associated with a more positive emotionality (higher scores on dimension one reflecting a more confident/curious behavioural demeanour) than control pigs. No effect of drug treatment on dimension two was found. Relationships between qualitative descriptions of behaviour and quantitative behavioural measures, taken from the same recordings, were found. Overall, this work supports the use of QBA for the assessment of emotionality in animals.