Are Humans Good for Goats? Assessing the Welfare of Goats Engaged in Human Interaction in a Care Farm Setting
Despite the lack of representation in the research, therapeutic care farming may provide an optimal approach to human animal interaction, endorsing positive animal welfare and, as Fine & Mackintosh (cited Fine et al., 2019) urge, promoting and protecting the welfare of animals at a comparable level to human outcomes. Unlike virtually all other modalities of human-animal interaction (HAI) or animalassisted intervention (AAI), care farming allows animals an element of control over their environment and the opportunity to express their preferences. The animals can initiate or terminate human interaction by choosing to approach or retreat, the animals choose when to take a breaks, and they are free to explore their environment. Autonomy and the ability to express preferences is a key indicator of positive animal welfare in general (Stilwell, 2016; Mattiello et al, 2019) but especially relevant for promoting animal welfare in human animal interactions. This randomized control trial investigated the longitudinal behavioral changes of goats residing in a therapeutic care farm setting who engage in human interactions. My hypothesis is goats engaged in reoccurring, semi-structured human interaction will display an increase in positive welfare over time. This would demonstrate that care farming can both be good for human health and improve animal welfare.
Thomas Parsons, VMD, PhD