Leon, A. F., Sanchez, J. A., Romero, M. H. 2020. Association between attitude and empathy with the quality of human-livestock interactions. Animals 10(8), 1304.
The human-animal interactions are a key component of human and animal welfare. The quality of this interaction can therefore be assessed by measuring the reaction response of the animals to the handler’s behavior. The aim of this study was to investigate the association between attitude and empathy towards the animals with the quality of human-livestock interactions. Additionally, we aimed to investigate whether the quality of cattle handling deteriorates as the working day progresses. A total of 18 livestock handlers and 1514 Colombian commercial Zebu steers were evaluated. A questionnaire pack consisting of 50 questions regarding demographic information, attitude and empathy characteristics was applied, using a structured interview. Each handlers’ responses to positive and negative attitude and empathy questions were calculated to produce a composite score. Observations of human-animal interactions were made at three times during the day (5:00, 7:00 and 9:00), each observation lasting 30 min. The handlers had an average age of 39.4 ± 3.4 y (range = 18–66 y), with little schooling but a lot of experience in the trade (17.13 ± 14.21 y). During handling, hitting, prodding and hand raising predominated over other actions (p < 0.05), and in response, the cattle behaved by freezing and running. Significant differences were found in the interactions used by handlers depending on the time of day (p < 0.05). The empathy total score ranged from 20 to 100, and the attitude total score between 24 and 120. The average attitude and empathy scores for handlers were 85.05 ± 6.92 (mean ±SD; range, 73–97) and 74.61 ± 4.72 (mean ±SD; range, 65–83), respectively. It has been concluded that there is an association between handlers’ attitudes and empathy towards animals and the quality of human-animal interaction during pre-slaughter.