In the Welfare Quality® assessment protocol for broilers, the touch test is included to assess the human–animal relationship in the flock. The test is designed to measure the animals’ fear of humans, assuming that broilers will withdraw from the observer if they are fearful. However, many broilers close to slaughter age have impaired walking ability, and the results from the touch test may thus be biased by lameness and poor leg health. As the touch test is currently being used in several countries to assess human–animal relationship in broilers, there is an urgent need to examine this potential relationship for a further validation of the test. In the present study, fear of humans was assessed in 50 randomly selected Norwegian broiler flocks, using the touch test as described in the Welfare Quality® protocol for ty broilers. Leg health was assessed by examining the gait of 150 random birds in each of the flocks, using a six-point gait score scale from 0 to 5. The coefficient for the relationship between touch test score and gait score was 0.034 (P<0.001), indicating that the animals express less fear as assessed by the touch test when the gait scores increase. This implies that the touch test may be confounded by impaired walking ability and therefore might be a suboptimal method of assessing fear of humans and human–animal relationship in broilers. In conclusion, the results from this study suggests that the touch test must be further validated in broilers and perhaps be replaced with a fear test that doesn’t rely on walking ability.
- Welfare Quality