RSPCA: British countryside is alive with the sound of music, says Freedom Food
And Adele and Coldplay are top of the charts
A new survey published today by RSPCA Freedom Food – to mark its Farm Animal Week – revealed that 77 per cent of farmers up and down the country either play music, radio, sing or chat to their animals and the majority claim it makes their animals more relaxed, calm and content*.
Freedom Food’s survey revealed that nearly half (44%) of farmers play music or the radio to their animals, with Radio 2 being the most popular station (played by 23%) followed by Radio 1 (14%). Adele, Bon Jovi, Coldplay and Eminem were named as popular farmyard artists.
But it’s not just music ringing out in our farmyards. The majority of all farmers (63%) – and an impressive 75 per cent of dairy farmers – surveyed said they talk to their animals. Hot topics of conversation include the weather, how they or their animals are feeling and general idle chit-chat as if speaking to a pet or another person.
This follows latest research by Essex-based Writtle College which found that playing a radio tuned into a pop music or chat station can have a positive effect on sow and piglet behaviour, by increasing sow suckling and causing piglets to be more playful** .
Freedom Food farmer, David Tory, and his cool cows couldn’t agree more with these findings:
"Put simply, a stressed and unhappy cow won’t drop her milk but we never have that problem with our girls. The secret to their happiness and good production is not only giving them the best care we can, under the RSPCA’s Freedom Food scheme, but tuning into the local radio or Planet Rock at milking time. The cows love a bit of Aerosmith and the Rolling Stones. It makes them chilled out and relaxed and that’s what produces great milk.
“And as for chatting to our animals, we never stop. It helps us build a trusting relationship with them and it makes us feel happy and relaxed too, which can only be a good thing for everyone’s welfare.”
RSPCA farm animal scientist, Dr Marc Cooper, added:
“Chatting to farm animals may sound daft but there is a clear welfare message behind Freedom Food’s survey. The farmers said that their animals are more content, relaxed and calm when they interact with them in this way. Like our pets, farm animals are intelligent, sentient beings and respond well to positive interaction. And just as we communicate to animals, they too communicate with us and can actually tell us a lot about themselves and how they are feeling by the way they behave.”
RSPCA launches unique ‘welfare tool’
Therefore not only are farmers talking to their animals but the RSPCA is now looking at ways of how we can better ‘listen’ to what animals have to say, as part of a pioneering new ‘welfare tool’ to help further improve farm animals’ lives***.
Dr Cooper explained: “This is about going back to basics and doing what good stock-keepers do best – looking at and listening to their animals to measure how well and happy they are.
“Of course many farmers already do this and those on the RSPCA’s Freedom Food scheme work to a strict set of welfare standards. But we are using science to develop a unique, quick and simple set of measures to assess animal welfare. It’s a bit like a 'welfare tool kit’ and the results will help farmers see how well their animals are, better understand what they need, and identify what more they can do to help give them a really good life.”
Freedom Food assessors are already using these new measures on egg laying farms and will start using them on dairy farms in July.
More survey findings
Other key highlights from Freedom Food’s survey of farmers include:
— 28% said they also play talk shows with Radio Five Live being the most popular station (19%), followed by Radio Four’s Today Programme (10%) and Talk Sport (10%)
— 10% of farmers said they even sing to their animals including opera, hymns, 60s and 70s tracks, top 20 hits, rugby anthems, piggy nursery rhymes and the soundtrack to the film Born Free
— Aerosmith and Nirvana were also named as popular farmyard bands
This week is Farm Animal Week (18-24 June) and Freedom Food is asking people who care about the lives of farm animals to choose higher welfare food, such as Freedom Food. The more people that do, the more animals will be reared to high welfare standards and have a better life. Visit www.freedomfood.co.uk/farmanimalweek to find out more.
Notes to editors:
*A survey was carried out by Agrifocus for Freedom Food. The sample comprised 249 pig, dairy and egg laying hen farmers from England and Wales – including Freedom Food and non-Freedom Food farmers – who were interviewed by telephone in April 2012.
**Langdon, K. and Amory, J.R. (2012). The effect of radio on the welfare and behaviour of sows and their piglets in farrowing crates. British Society of Animal Science AGM, University of Nottingham.
***AssureWel is a five-year (2010-2015) project led by the RSPCA, the Soil Association and the University of Bristol, funded by the Tubney Charitable Trust. The aim of the project is to improve the welfare of the major farm animal species – laying hens, dairy cattle, pigs, broilers, beef cattle and sheep – though a practical system for assessing their well-being. AssureWel’s ‘welfare outcome assessments’ are scientifically validated measures of welfare achieved by looking directly at the animals, rather than their environment or management. It can be used by farm assurance schemes, farmers, vets and other animal welfare professionals. Visit www.assurewel.org for more information.
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