Cows bear grudges: official

And chickens have needs, too

We at Vulture Central were growing increasingly concerned that funding bodies may have taken the axe to the kind of cutting-edge research which proved that cows enjoy a bit of girl-on-girl, and that sheep like happy, smiley people and pine for absent friends.

We needn't have worried. A team at Bristol University has proved what bovine aficionados knew all along: that cows have a "complex mental life in which they bear grudges, nurture friendships and become excited by intellectual challenges", news.com.au reports.

What's more, cows are reportedly "capable of strong emotions such as pain, fear and even anxiety about the future" - as are pigs, goats and chickens. Accordingly, Christine Nicol, professor of animal welfare at Britain's Bristol University, warns that "even chickens might have to be treated as individuals with needs and problems". Yes indeed. Needs: chickenfeed. Problems: Chicken Tikka Masala. Enough said.

How, though, can the team demonstrate that cows bear grudges? According to the report, the cattle-worriers "have documented how cows within a herd form friendship groups of between two and four animals with whom they spend most of their time, often grooming and licking each other. They will also dislike other cows, and can bear grudges for months or years".

Ah yes, it all makes sense. Willing members of the lesbian captive bovine community will be rewarded with "grooming and licking" while those rejecting homosexual advances within the herd will be shunned with a stroppy silence.

Still, those at the receiving end of a four-legged grudge can still lead an active, fulfilling life by seeking intellectual stimulation. Donald Broom, professor of animal welfare at Cambridge University, has demonstrated that cows "become excited by solving intellectual challenges".

His team "challenged the animals with a task where they had to find how to open a door to get some food". An electroencephalograph was used to measure the subjects' brainwaves, while reserachers eyeballed the herd for visible signs of joy. Broom reports: "The brainwaves showed their excitement; their heartbeat went up and some even jumped into the air. We called it their Eureka moment."

Blimey. For God's sake don't ever stick a cow in front of the Times cryptic crossword - it'd go bloody mental.

Those who would like further info on this magnificent research are directed to a conference in London next month sponsored by animal welfare group Compassion in World Farming, where the boffins will present their findings. The lunch menu is not noted, but if I were a cow living anywhere near Bristol Uni, I'd currently be feeling "fear and even anxiety about the future". ®

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