Why does it feel useless to give a lecture?

Animals are emotional beings, which is now recognized, if not always easy to prove, knowledge. Animals feel fear when they are in need and comfort when they are well. But the spectrum is by no means exhausted: Empathy, willingness to cooperate and unselfish action are also regularly observed. Animals may even have fun and laugh in their own way.

At the 3rd Animalicum Congress in March 2019, the ethologist Raoul Schwing from the Messerli Research Institute at the Vetmeduni Vienna will present exciting findings on the subject of “feelings in animals”. Games and fun are among his main research areas. For example, as part of his dissertation for the University of Auckland, New Zealand, Schwing evaluated 3,500 calls from keas, the clever New Zealand parrots, that he had recorded himself. In doing so, he came across a phenomenon: he found a call, after which the birds fluttered, teased and fluttered. Should that screeching mean something like “Come on, play with me!”?

Body language game prompts are well known in the animal kingdom: If a dog wants to play, it stretches out its front legs and wags its tail. Chimpanzees have a facial expression called an “open mouth face” to encourage others to play. But no one had previously described a call to play in the animal kingdom. Raoul Schwing investigated his suspicions: He let the alleged game call run off the tape next to wild keas - and was amazed: As soon as he had pressed the button labeled “Play”, the birds started playing. They bounced around wildly, pulled each other's feathers, or pounced on objects. Theoretically, this sound could be a laugh that encourages other people to do funny actions.

The organizer of the Animalicum is veterinarian Tanja Warter. This year's main topic "What does the animal feel?" Fascinates her herself: "The more we know about animals and can understand what cognitive performance they are capable of and what they feel, the more we lose our unique selling points as humans."

This is exactly what Prof Dr. Norbert Sachser from the University of Münster in his opening lecture. Sachser is the author of the "Spiegel" bestseller "Der Mensch im Tier" and says: "There is no human ability or quality that is not at least partially available in animals." In addition to joy, fear and sadness, he was already able to experience more complex emotions such as Prove jealousy. In addition, Sachser describes that there are also optimists and pessimists among animals. “We also have to learn that many properties are not just inherited from the cradle,” says the behavioral scientist. "Whether a guinea pig becomes highly aggressive or not, for example, is largely down to its experiences during puberty and not to genes or instincts." on.

We humans feel closer to some animals than to others. To get a picture of the range of animal emotions, it helps to take a look at the closest relatives of humans. Prof. Dr. Roman Wittig from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig researches the behavior of wild chimpanzees. It is above all the social ties that astonish us. For animals to stand up for others, for example, it is necessary that they know how others are doing.

"After building bridges with our closest relatives, we will return to the feelings of pets," said Warter. “In the veterinary profession, you quickly notice how much feelings can make life difficult for the animals themselves and their owners. Just think of aggression or severe anxiety in dogs or cats. ”This quickly raises the question of when something is pathological. Dr. Maya Bräm from the University of Bern takes up this question: Her main research area is high sensitivity in dogs and cats, but she also knows how to report anger and depression. Whether feelings can also be a disease or at least be pathological is her topic at the Animalicum Congress.

Mainly farm animals, of which the veterinarian and philosopher Prof. Dr. Jörg Luy is convinced that they would benefit greatly if their feelings were given greater consideration in the future. In his lecture "Show feeling so that I can help you" he would like to risk a new look at human judgment and decision-making. The ethical quality of a judgment depends not least on how accurate the empathic projections are. Luy: "For our dealings with animals, it turns out to be indispensable to be as well informed as possible about their feelings."

Program for both dog and cat fans

The afternoon of the "Animal & We Congress" starts with a parallel program with dog and cat topics. Sabrina Streif from the University of Freiburg equipped outdoor cats with GPS devices and small film cameras for her research. The goal of their work was to find out how far away cats are from their home and what they are occupied with during their trips. Do they mainly hunt? Do you have social contacts? Do you take the same routes over and over or do you regularly take new paths? The thirst for adventure of the velvet paws is the focus of her lecture.

Dr. Barbara Schöning in the dog special program. Again and again there are sometimes dramatic incidents with the four-legged friends. Questions about the culprits and about sensible preventive measures are raised. There is a lot of discussion, from breed bans to dog handler licenses. How can you give dogs a good life and at the same time create the greatest possible safety for people? Schöning outlines ways out of the dilemma in which many cities and municipalities are stuck.

The special program is rounded off by the most important new findings about feeding. In an almost unmanageable spectrum of possibilities, Dr. Julia Fritz, specialist veterinarian for nutrition, work out the most important basics and shed light on the emotional side of feeding under the motto "Love goes through the stomach".

The end of the congress is Prof. Dr. Redouan Bshary, ethologist at the University of Neuchâtel in Switzerland. Organizer Tanja Warter: “With his lecture we are moving into an extremely exciting and at the same time completely unknown world of animals to most people. I was absolutely amazed when I first heard about Bshary's research. ”Veterinarian Warter doesn't want to reveal more. The title of Bshary's final lecture is: “An unmistakable sense of business - completely underestimated animals operate exemplary business concepts.” It will be exciting.

Registration, program and information on all speakers and the ÖTK education points can be found at: www.animalicum.com