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The use of techniques from human economics to measure what animals value, illustrated by experimental work on the American mink, Mustela vison.

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Title: The use of techniques from human economics to measure what animals value, illustrated by experimental work on the American mink, Mustela vison.
Author: Mason, G.J.; Cooper, J.; Clarebrough, C.
Abstract: Measuring strength of preference allows the assessment of the value of potential enrichments as perceived by the animal. This enables the selection of enrichments most likely to improve animal welfare. We made mink work for a variety of resources by means of pushing heavily-weighted access doors, using techniques from human economics to analyze how use of the resources changed with price. We also assessed the physiological stress resulting from frustration, by preventing the mink reaching one of four resources for 24 hours, and assaying cortisol excreted in the urine. Both our behavioural measures of value (e.g. the maximum price the mink would pay to reach different resources) and our physiological measures of endocrine stress showed that the mink valued some resources (e.g. swimming-water) more than others. The value they placed on resources was not predicted by their time budgets when allowed access to all the potential enrichments for free. This study thus shows that measuring preference is potentially an important tool for designing truly enriching environments. It also confirms that even animals raised in barren conditions can remain motivated to perform a wide range of natural behaviours.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10214/4973
Date: 2002
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Citation: G. Mason, J. Cooper & C. Clarebrough (2002). The use of techniques from human economics to measure what animals value, illustrated by experimental work on the American mink, Mustela vison. In: Proceedings of the 4th International Conferences on Environmental Enrichment, eds. V. J. Hare, K. E. Worley & K. Myers, The Shape of Enrichment Inc., San Diego, pp. 111 – 117.


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