Category Archives: Animal well-being

Animals in Animal-Assisted Services: Are They Volunteers or Professionals?

Animal welfare is a growing concern in Animal-Assisted Services. Although studies have been conducted on stress signals and—to a lesser extent—positive emotions, no research has yet been conducted on the motivation of the integrated animal, to the best of our knowledge. Not all therapy animals are trained to assist. Are they volunteers or professionals? Volunteers have a higher degree of self-government and can quit when they are not motivated anymore. Professionals might, however, go the extra mile. Can we compare animal volunteers and professionals to their human equivalents? If so, this might help to structure discussions about animal welfare and motivation in interventions. Furthermore, it can provide better arguments for the career planning and career ending of these animals. Using animal-friendly interventions might influence motivation and, consequently, the moment at which efforts cease. Studying motivation is not easy, as it requires data on dopamine, the molecule involved in motivation, reward and repetition of behavior. However, the use of wearable techniques such as on site electroencephalograms (EEGs) for freely moving animals and non-invasive dopamine measurements is a developing and promising area of research. The translation of these data into context-ethograms—ethograms that show behavior in a context/intervention—can help handlers and therapists to understand the behavior of their therapy animal better and with less subjectivity.

Read the full paper here: Wijnen, B. & Martens, P. (2022). Animals in Animal-Assisted Services: Are They Volunteers or Professionals? Animals, 12(19), 2564; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani12192564

Chinese concern for animals increased significantly after COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in devastating consequences for human health and social stability, not merely China but in the world as a whole, and been the catalyst for a greater scrutiny of animal welfare standards.

By comparing current data with data of 2015 we measured the impacts of COVID-19 on Chinese attitudes towards animals. The present study revealed that Chinese concern for animals increased significantly after COVID-19. So, the unfolding of COVID-19 has highlighted the interrelationships of humans, animals and nature and the ensuing tragedy may finally create an opportunity to see Chinese concern for animal wellbeing improve. Although still a long way to go, hopefully this could also be a indicator that the Chinese government will pay more attention to animal welfare. Not only due to its impacts on human health and social development, but, more importantly, for the sake of animal-wellbeing itself.

Read the full paper here: Su, B. & Martens, P. (2022). Public concern for animal welfare and its correlation with ethical ideologies after coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in China. Animal welfare, 31, 309-318.

Uitnodiging Boekpresentie Dierzaamheid

Je kunt ons boek nu kopen bij je lokale boekhandel of online via bijvoorbeeld deze link.

Datum: woensdag 8 juni vanaf 17.00 uur

Locatie: BuzzHouse, Vendelstraat 7, 1012 XX Amsterdam

Graag vooraf aanmelden: n.slot-slokker@houseofanimals.nl

Dierzaamheid beschrijft het leven van huisdieren, gehouden dieren en wilde dieren in Nederland. De titel staat voor het idee dat in een samenleving alleen echt ecologische duurzaamheid kan zijn als dat hand in hand gaat met dierenwelzijn. Het boek bevat een zestien essays over alle sectoren en domeinen waar mens en dier in ons land samenleven (van huisdieren via de veehouderij tot dierentuinen, van wilde dieren via proefdieren tot dierenrechten), steeds geschreven door een autoriteit op dat terrein, en voorzien van tips voor een dierinclusieve samenleving.

De feestelijke presentatie van het boek vindt plaats op woensdag 8 juni van 17.00 in het BuzzHouse in Amsterdam, dat te vinden is op het Binnengasthuis-terrein van de Universiteit van Amsterdam. Tussen 17.30 uur en 18.15 uur spreker achtereenvolgens Erno Eskens, de uitgever, en de samenstellers – Pim Martens, Maarten Reesink en Karen Soeters. Elk van de sprekers zal een vlammend statement maken over dierzaamheid. Daarna is het tijd om die lancering met hapjes en drankjes te vieren.

Over het boek

Dierzaamheid beschrijft het leven van huisdieren, gehouden dieren en wilde dieren in Nederland. Er blijkt veel te verbeteren. Maar het is mogelijk: duurzaam samenleven met dieren, zonder uitbuiting en milieuvernietiging. De auteurs introduceren het begrip ‘dierzaamheid’. We worden ‘dierzaam’ door zorgzamer om te gaan met onze huisdieren, dierentuinen te hervormen, de oude strijd tegen het zogenaamde ‘ongedierte’ te stoppen en door op een milieuvriendelijke wijze gezonder vee te houden. Het verbeteren van de (rechts)positie van het dier blijkt niet alleen van belang voor de kwetsbare dieren, maar ook voor het milieu en dus voor onze eigen gezondheid. Met tips voor een dierinclusieve samenleving.

Met bijdragen van: Leonie Cornips, Marco van Duijn, Frank van Eerdenburg, Lenny van Erp, Monique Janssens, Marjo van Koppen, Diederik van Liere, Pim Martens, André Menache, Nynke Osinga, Maarten Reesink, Esteban Rivas, Servé Smeets, Karen Soeters, Bert Theunissen en Frank Zanderink

€ 24,90, samenstelling Pim Martens, Maarten Reesink, Karen Soeters, paperback, 288 pagina’s, uitgeverij Noordboek.

Je kunt ons boek nu kopen bij je lokale boekhandel of online via bijvoorbeeld deze link.

Attitudes Towards Marine Life in China

Human behavior towards the nonhuman world originates in human attitudes. Understanding human attitudes has therefore been recognized as pivotal to facilitate healthy interactions between the human and nonhuman world to deal with issues such as biodiversity loss, wildlife conservation, and animal welfare.

As marine life is under increasing pressure, growing scientific attention has been drawn to this area. This study investigates public attitudes in Chinese society towards marine life and determines the roles of basic human demographics and ethical ideology in shaping this attitude. An online survey was conducted in 22 mainland coastal cities based on a questionnaire regarding demographical information, the Ethical Position Questionnaire, environmental concern, as well as environment-related behavior (measured by the New Ecological Paradigm (NEP)) and an adapted marine life version of the Animal Attitude Scale.

Our results demonstrate that Chinese women are more concerned about marine life protection than men. Chinese citizens generally consider using marine life for food acceptable, but less acceptable for using their skin or fur. Ethical ideology is found to have no influence upon public attitudes towards using marine life for testing in medical experiments. We also found that some environment-related behaviors, such as beach visits, NGO membership/donations, and transportation preferences, were predictors of attitudes toward marine life and marine life usage. Given that this study copes with marine life in a broad sense, future projects are encouraged to pay attention to public attitudes towards specific marine species, such as sharks and dolphins, since few such studies have been performed in the Chinese context.

Read the full papers here:

Chen, M., & Martens, P. (2022). Ethical Ideology and Public Attitudes Towards Marine Life in China, Society & Animals. doi: https://doi.org/10.1163/15685306-bja10090

Chen, M. & Martens, P. (2022). Environmental Concern and Public Attitudes Toward Marine Life in Coastal China.  Anthrozoös, doi: 10.1080/08927936.2022.2101247

Cats and COVID-19

Cats are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2. Considering the close contact that exists between humans and cats, this is worrisome. Virus transmission between species bears a particular risk of leading to the development of new virus variants. Therefore, the aim of this review was to provide a comprehensive overview about what is known about the role of cats regarding the spread of SARS-CoV-2 to guide further research and inform policy makers. The main outcome of this review was that while cats are susceptible to the virus and transmission from humans to cats happen regularly, there is currently no evidence of widespread SARS-CoV-2 circulation among cats. Overall, cats seem to play little role in the spread of the virus. Nevertheless, this review also revealed substantial gaps in research. For instance, large-scale studies including more cats are needed to solidify evidence gathered from individual studies. Moreover, the role stray, feral, and shelter cats has attracted little research as well as the possibility of cat-to-cat virus transmission beyond experimental infection. Tackling these gaps in research is important to adequately evaluate the danger of cats’ susceptibility to SARS-COV-2 now and in the future. Beyond more research, surveillance, and careful interaction with pet cats, we need to tackle the actual root problem more. We need to carefully examine and rethink the current relationship humanity has with animals and ecosystems at large.

Read the full paper here: Doliff R., & Martens, P. (2022) Cats and SARS-CoV-2: A Scoping ReviewAnimals. 12(11):1413.

Sustainable Development Matters for Animals Too

This document contains an open letter, also published as a Commentary in the inaugural issue of CABI One Health, followed by a list of authors and other signatories (I am not an author of this text, but did sign it). Researchers and other experts in relevant fields are welcome to add your signature via this form. The list below will be periodically updated to reflect new signatures. If you have questions, comments, or media inquiries about this open letter, you can write to animalsandSDGs@gmail.com.

Animals matter for sustainable development, and sustainable development matters for animals. As the One Health framework reminds us, human, non-human, and environmental health are linked (Zinsstag, 2020), and many experts agree that every Sustainable Development Goal interacts with animals in some way (e.g. Keeling et al., 2019).  

Yet animal welfare – that is, the mental and physical state of animals – remains neglected in sustainable development governance – that is, the goals and policies that governments are pursuing to promote sustainable development. For example, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development comprises 17 goals and 169 targets on topics ranging from hunger and poverty to peace and justice (United Nations, 2015). But while several of these targets focus on conservation of biodiversity, species, and habitats, none references animal welfare.  

In June 2022, governments will convene for the UN Stockholm+50 Conference, which marks 50 years of international decision making on environmental issues. At this conference, governments have an opportunity to recognize the intrinsic value of animal welfare and the links between animal welfare and sustainable development, and to aspire to harm animals less and benefit them more as part of sustainable development governance. We call on governments to take these steps for the sake of human and non-human animals alike.

Animals matter for sustainable development. While its origins remain uncertain, COVID-19 has reminded us that industries like industrial animal agriculture and the wildlife trade not only harm and kill many animals per year but also contribute to global health and environmental threats that imperil us all (Roe et al., 2020).

For example, industrial animal agriculture keeps domesticated animals in cramped conditions and administers antibiotics to stimulate growth and suppress disease, contributing to infectious disease emergence and antibiotic resistance (Silbergeld et al., 2008; Roe et al., 2020). Animal agriculture is also a leading contributor to climate change, and it generally consumes much more land and water and produces much more waste and pollution than plant-based alternatives (Poore and Nemecek, 2018).   

Similarly, the wildlife trade often keeps non-domesticated animals in high densities, either by capturing them from the wild or by raising them in captivity. This practice again contributes to infectious disease emergence (Karesh et al., 2005). Many methods of capturing animals also damage the environment; for instance, industrial fishing contributes to biodiversity loss, seabed damage, and plastic pollution in aquatic ecosystems, among other harms (Pusceddu et al., 2014; Thushari and Senevirathna, 2020).  

Sustainable development matters for animals. Scientists increasingly accept that many animals are sentient (e.g. Low et al., 2012; Birch et al., 2021), and ethicists increasingly accept that sentient beings matter for their own sakes (e.g. Regan, 1995; Singer, 1995). It follows that humans should consider the interests of many animals when deciding how to treat them.  

The stakes for animals in international environmental policy are high. Industrial animal agriculture and the wildlife trade not only harm and kill hundreds of billions of non-humans per year directly. They also harm and kill countless non-humans indirectly, by increasing disease outbreaks like bird flu and COVID-19, extreme weather events like fires and floods, and social and economic disruptions like lockdowns and supply-chain breakdowns that increase the risk of human violence and neglect towards non-humans.  

More generally, environmental changes like climate change, ocean acidification, and air, water, and land pollution are not only reducing biodiversity but also harming and killing countless animals by making it impossible for them to breathe, eat, drink, or otherwise survive. Some mitigation and adaptation strategies – ranging from the intensification of meat production systems to the construction of cities and transportation systems without appropriate safeguards – risk harming and killing animals unnecessarily as well. 

These links between human, non-human, and environmental health all matter for sustainable development governance. Humans have a responsibility to consider the interests of everyone impacted by human activity. In particular, humans should harm animals less and benefit them more as part of sustainable development governance, for instance by reducing exploitation of animals as part of pandemic and climate change mitigation efforts and by increasing assistance for animals as part of adaptation efforts (Sebo, 2022).  

Fortunately, governments are making progress. For example, in 2020, several UN bodies established the One Health High Level Expert Panel (OHHLEP) to provide guidance on ‘issues raised by the interface of human, animal and ecosystem health’ (FAO et al., 2021). And in 2022, Environment Ministers at the fifth UN Environment Assembly requested the UN Environment Programme to produce a report to improve our understanding of the nexus between animal welfare, the environment, and sustainable development (UNEA, 2022).

Fifty years after the adoption of the Stockholm Declaration on the Human Environment, governments have the opportunity to build on this progress. They can:

  • Recognize the intrinsic value of animal welfare and the relationship between animal welfare and sustainable development in Stockholm+50 outcome documents and subsequent international sustainable development outcome documents.
  • Strengthen and broaden the One Health activities of the OHHLEP and other relevant entities to better reflect the value of improving animal health and welfare not only for the sake of humans but also for the sake of the animals themselves, as well as consider animal health and welfare in the impact assessments that shape policy decisions.
  • Support policies that benefit humans and non-humans alike, including informational policies that educate the public about human, animal, and environmental health and well-being; financial and regulatory policies that incentivize co-beneficial practices; and just transition policies that support vulnerable populations.

We call on governments to start including animal welfare in sustainable development governance now, towards a healthier, more resilient, and more sustainable world for all.

Multi-cultural perspectives towards the use of animals in medical research

Many people regard animal-based medical research as justifiable because of medical and social benefits that may come from it, yet little evidence is available to support this view. According to the 3Rs (replacement, refinement, and reduction) seeking alternatives that both minimize adverse effects on and improve the welfare of experimental animals needs more attention. Public attitudes toward animal-based medical research may be an important variable in directing the discussion of laboratory animal welfare.

The present study, therefore, investigated public attitudes toward laboratory animals in medical research, ranging from endangered
wild animals (e.g., chimpanzees, dolphins), farm animals (e.g., cows, pigs), companion animals (e.g., dogs, cats) to some typical laboratory animals (e.g., rats, insects). These attitudes are then discussed from the perspective of East Asian and Anglo-American cultures.

Our results demonstrate that people with a higher ‘compassion to animals’ score have a more welfare-oriented attitude toward animal-based medical research. This indicates that people’s concern for animal welfare is inherent to challenging animal-based medical research. However, using animals in medical research helps to save humans’ lives, which can generate a moral conflict for individuals who disagree with animal use . More generally, the awareness of both animal welfare and the need for medical breakthroughs may promote efforts to seek alternatives (e.g., computer models, artificial animals) to replace animal usage, which, to some extent, could alleviate the conflict of values between medical progress and animal use. However, a growing number of people challenges or refutes animal-based research, independent of their nationalities and cultures.

Read the full paper here: Su, B., Zhang, C. & Martens, P. (2021). Attitudes in China, Japan, and the Netherlands toward the use of animals in medical research. Anthrozoos.

New book: Human-Animal Relationships in Transformation

The ethics of human/animal relationships is a growing field of academic research and a topic for public discussion and regulatory interventions from law-makers, governments and private institutions. Human/animal relationships are in transformation and understanding the nature of this process is crucial for all those who believe that the enlargement of moral and legal recognition to nonhuman animals is part of contemporary moral and political progress. Understanding the nature of this process means analysing and critically discussing the philosophical, scientific and legal concepts and arguments embedded in it. This book contributes to the discussion by bringing together the ideas and reflections of leading experts from different disciplinary backgrounds and with a range of scientific perspectives. Furthermore, this book both provides an up-to-date examination of the transformation of human/animal relationships and presents ideas to foster this process.

See our contribution here: Martens, P. & Su, B. (2022). Perceiving Animals Through Different Demographic and Cultural Lenses. In: Human/Animal Relationships in Transformation: Scientific, Moral and Legal Perspectives. Vitale, A. & Pollo, S. (eds.). Palgrave Macmillan, p. 93-118.

The earth is running away from us

Fireplace Talk on Environmental Policy and Regulation

The atmosphere is warming and the climate is changing with each passing year. One million of the eight million species on the planet are at risk of being lost. Forests and oceans are being polluted and destroyed. However  ‘animals’, ‘nature’ and ‘sustainability’ are not often mentioned together in Environmental Policies and Regulations. The reason is likely to be found in the fact that the sustainability debate has been hijacked in recent years by industry and governments. Their view regarding sustainable development significantly has been subordinate to the dogma of economic growth with little regard for animal welfare and concerns for nature.

For example, The European Commission speaks about protecting Europe’s natural capital and resources. However, we also need to acknowledge the value of nature for its own sake, instead as a mere means for human flourishing. Although we as humans may be privileged in our capacity to respect autonomy and flourishing, the autonomy and flourishing that we must respect is not limited to humans. Moreover, protecting Europe’s nature for it’s own sake is perfectly compatible with human flourishing. Perhaps it is even true that in the long term we will show incapable of protecting nature as a resource for human wellbeing, without at the same time recognizing nature’s intrinsic value.

This is the third event in the Fireplace Talks on the 30th Anniversary of the Maastricht Treaty, organized by UM Campus Brussels on 12th January 2022 from 18.30-19.30 (online). Our guest speakers for the talk are Maastricht University Professor Dr. Pim Martens, and the Executive Director of the Greenpeace European Unit, Dr. Jorgo Riss.  Register here.

The Future of Animal Rights

Over the past decades, many voices have emphasised our interdependence with the other species that inhabit the planet, as well as the need to recognise them as subjects of law. The recognition of animal rights is a historical appeal that has led to the creation of new legal instruments without losing sight of the need to envisage alternative forms of coexistence. This is a radical transformation which, given the acceleration of phenomena such as the loss of biodiversity, cannot be postponed and in which universities, as a space for reflection, research and dissemination, play a key role.

The Ministry of Universities has organised these sessions in collaboration with the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB) to foster spaces for dialogue on contemporary problematics that form part of the Sustainable Development Goals. In these sessions, bringing together different voices from European universities, we will reflect on animal rights and our care obligations toward the other species with which we coexist. In our session, we will talk about different projects developed in Europe aimed at promoting a new legal and political framework for animal rights.

For (free) registration and live streaming see the CCCB website.