Kriengwatana, B. P., Mott, R., ten Cate, C. 2022. Music for animal welfare: A critical review & conceptual framework. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 251, 105641.
Music can have powerful effects on human health and wellbeing. These findings have inspired an emerging field of research that focuses on the potential of music for animal welfare, with most studies investigating whether music can enhance overall wellbeing. However, this sole focus on discovering what effects music have on animals is insufficient for advancing scientific and practical understanding of how music can be used as an enrichment tool and can also lead to problems in experimental design and interpretation. This paper argues for a different approach to the study of music for welfare, where music is used to address specific welfare goals, taking account what animals hear in music and selecting or creating ‘musical’ compositions that test current hypotheses about how music is able to influence animal behaviour and physiology. Within this conceptual framework, we outline the process through which perceptual abilities influence welfare outcomes and suggest reframing music for welfare research as Auditory Enrichment Research which adopts a targeted approach that does not purpose music as an all-round welfare enhancer but rather investigates whether auditory enrichment can ameliorate specific welfare problems based on species-specific perceptual abilities, needs, and welfare goals. Ultimately, we hope that these discussions will help to bring greater unification, vision, and directionality in the field.