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Title: Making Sense of Fear Testing - Validating Common Behavioral Tests used in Swine

item Lay, Jr, Donald - Don

Submitted to: American Society of Animal Science
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/18/2009
Publication Date: 7/16/2009
Citation: Lay Jr, D.C., Garner, J.P. 2009. Making Sense of Fear Testing - Validating Common Behavioral Tests used in Swine. American Society of Animal Science. Proceedings CD.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Tests to assess fear are commonly used in laboratory animals, such as mice and rats, when researchers wish to understand the implications of specific drugs, such as anxiolytics, or specific environments which may be used to house experimental animals. Researchers who study the welfare of livestock have taken notice and adopted many of these tests for their own research. Researchers have used these tests to measure fear of swine which have been exposed to specific production practices, or environments to determine how these stimuli alter the swine’s responses to fearful situations. Some common tests used to assess fear of swine are the Approach/Avoidance Test, Novel Object test, and the Startle test. The tests are based on the assumption that when swine are placed into novel environments or challenged with a potentially threatening situation they will experience the emotion of fear and act accordingly. Those individuals who are less prone to be fearful, due to genetics, temperament, past experience, etc., will express fewer behaviors indicative of fear. In this way, researchers are able to objectively determine the effects of specific practices or environments. For data from these tests to be meaningful, it is required that these tests are both reliable and valid. Unfortunately, little research has been conducted to validate these tests in swine. In 2006, some members of the NC-1029-Applied Animal Behavior and Welfare committee designed research to address this problem. Three tests were chosen for validation: 1) Approach/Avoidance Test, 2) Novel Object Test, and 3) the Startle Test. The tests were conducted at multiple locations across the U.S. and Canada. Care was taken to replicate the tests as precisely as possible, controlling for: the size of the pigs, the gender, the size and construction of the test pen, the color of clothes and boots the researchers wore, the same novel object, time of testing, etc. By analyzing these data we have gained a better understanding of what these tests really measure and their usefulness in assessing fear of swine. The effort of this committee has provided a significant step forward in our understanding of the emotional response of swine which is useful in designing welfare friendly production settings and practices.