Industry Partners

Prairie Swine Centre is an affiliate of the University of Saskatchewan

Prairie Swine Centre is grateful for the assistance of the George Morris Centre in developing the economics portion of Pork Insight.

Financial support for the Enterprise Model Project and Pork Insight has been provided by:

Author(s): Rushen J;
Publication Date: January 1, 2003
Reference: , vol. 81: pp. 185-198.


Human-animal interactions are inevitable in intensive production systems. Understanding the effects of this relationship has improved over the past 20 years, but there are still questions to be answered. Handling studies have indicated that fear of humans negatively affects productivity and welfare parameters in most livestock species. Stress responses that result from fear of humans have been implicated in limiting performance. The fear of humans may also result because of the attitude and behaviour of stockpeople. Fear of humans can make animals more prone to injuries, more likely to experience acute and chronic stress (which could lead to immunosuppression, possibly compromising the animal’s health). Also, if the stockperson has a poor attitude, they could be less diligent in ensuring the needs of the animals are met. Therefore, it seems logical that if the attitudes and behaviour of stockpeople could be improved, then the animal’s fear would decrease and welfare and productivity would increase. But, attitudes that have been developed and instilled over many years are difficult to change. However, research has shown that there are modification techniques (for behaviour and attitude) that do result in improvement. Perhaps there are better selection criteria that could be used when hiring stockpeople. For example, it has been found that attitudes towards some job-related variables (apart from the animal work) are related to attitudes towards pigs. Certain personality characteristics have been found to be correlated with job productivity. There are many areas of research that still require investigation. There is some evidence suggesting that the negative effects of some housing conditions and husbandry procedures are improved through positive handling procedures. This provides further support for the importance of human factors on animal welfare. Most research has focused on the effects of physical interactions. Less attention has focused on more subtle visual (eg. stockperson’s posture and movement) and auditory (eg. shouting or clanging metal) interactions. However, some research has shown these factors to strongly influence the animal’s behaviour. Some research has suggested that exposing animals to positive human interactions or a rewarding experience (eg. food) during negative husbandry procedures can decrease the severity of the pain or fear experienced. Also, animals can make associations between a negative procedure and where and by whom it is performed. Therefore, if the regular stockperson wore a different color while performing the procedure, the animal might not associate the procedure with the person, thereby decreasing the fear of the regular handler. Stockpeople have a significant impact on the welfare and productivity of livestock. Training programs can aid in improving the attitudes and behaviour of stockpeople towards animals. More research is needed to understand not only the effect of tactile interactions, but also auditory and visual interactions. The effects of rewarding human-animal interactions also requires more research.

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