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Odours ‘can evoke positive emotions’ in rats
"If an animal has to go through a stressful procedure, it could be presented with an odour that it had previously associated with a pleasant context.”
Research finds rats can learn to link smells with positive experiences 

Odours can be used to evoke a positive emotional state in animals, a new study of rats suggests.

An international research team found that rats can learn to associate a neutral odour with a positive experience. Their findings have been published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Rats emit high pitched ultrasonic vocalisations (USVs), which are similar to laughter, when they are happy. This is used to measure their ‘enjoyment’ of being tickled.

Scientists discovered that rats exposed to a neutral odour emitted more USVs when they were subsequently exposed to the same smell without being tickled.

“This suggests that the odour is now able to produce a positive emotional state in the rats and has a number of potential applications, including the use of positive odour conditioning to ameliorate stress in domestic animals,” said Alistair Lawrence, chair of animal behaviour and welfare at Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and the University of Edinburgh.

He added: “For example, if an animal has to go through a stressful procedure, it could be presented with an odour that it had previously associated with a pleasant context.”

Two groups of rats were exposed to different neutral odours (A and B). Researchers then measured the USVs produced by the group of rats being tickled and the control group. Tickled rats produced significantly more USVs on the days that they were tickled, and compared to the control rats.

Both groups were then exposed to three odours, an unknown neutral odour, extract of fox faeces, and either odours A or B. Tickled rats emitted more USVs when they were exposed to the odour they had already been exposed to when tickled.

Vincent Bombail, research scientist at the National de la Recherche Agronomique, said: “This is a novel method for positive/appetitive conditioning without the use of drug or food rewards. It is a fascinating foray into the world of positive emotions, which was enjoyable for the rats, as well as all the experimenters involved.”

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Government to run free webinars on exporting horses

News Story 1
 The UK government has announced that it will be running two free webinars for horse owners and exporters, explaining what steps to take to export horses from 1 January 2021.

The first webinar will take place on Tuesday 20 October 2020, from 9.30am to 11am. It will cover Export Health Certificate (EHC) requirements from 1 January 2021. Click here to register.

The second webinar will take place on Wednesday 4 November 2020, from 10.30am to 12pm. This session will focus on the steps that businesses need to take to export equines from the UK to the EU. Click here to register.

For more information on exporting horses and ponies after 1 January 2021, please visit the gov.uk website. 

Click here for more...
News Shorts
More cases of African swine fever confirmed in Germany

More cases of African swine fever (ASF) have been confirmed in wild boar in Germany.

According to Pig World, 20 outbreaks have been identified in two districts - Brandenburg, where the original case confirmed on September 10 was found, and near the town of Neuzelle, some 7.5 km away.

The finding represents a further seven cases confirmed by Germany's Friedrich-Loeffler Institute. A Central Crisis Team has been established to coordinate the response to the outbreak.