Behaviour & Welfare

Understanding and improving animal welfare
Laboratory animal

Animal welfare is a topic of great interest in our society. Everyone agrees that we should treat animals with care and respect. At the same time, the way we regard an animal strongly depends on the context in which it is held, as we tend to approach companion animals, production animals and laboratory animals quite differently. 

The research programme Behaviour & Welfare strives to improve the welfare of animals in our society, by investigating emotional and cognitive processes that contribute to the adaptive capacities of animals. Importantly, we think that animal welfare research should be based on understanding biological and behavioural mechanisms that determine animal welfare, independent of the animal's context.

Louk Vanderschuren
Investigating emotional and cognitive processes in animals is essential for understanding animal welfare
Research groups
Social play behaviour

Behavioural Neuroscience
Positive emotions like reward and motivation and their modulation by cognitive control mechanisms guide adaptive behaviour that underlies animal welfare. To better understand these phenomena, we study the neural mechanisms of social behaviour, impulsive behaviour and addictive behaviour. Read more

Anxiety and adaptation

Anxiety and Adaptation
An individual is in a positive welfare state when it has the freedom to display normal behavioural patterns that allow the animal to adapt to the demands of the prevailing environmental circumstances and enable it to reach a state that it perceives as positive. Read more

Emotions and cognition in farrm animals

Ontogeny of Emotion/Cognition
Adaptability of farm animals is challenged by industrial farming, where aspects of management and housing practices may impair animal welfare. To be able to make evidence-based decisions aimed at safeguarding and improving farm animal welfare in farming practice, we need to understand the needs and capabilities of these animals. Read more


4 April 2018
A consortium of social partners have joined together to support the research into the interaction between service dogs and veterans with PTSS.
Logo QS World University Rankings
2 March 2018
Rise from 9th place to 5th in prestigious university ranking list.
21 February 2018
An excess of the signalling molecule substance dopamine in the brain can have a negative influence on our ability to make decisions
8 February 2018
The Executive Board has appointed Saskia Arndt to the post of Professor of Animal Behaviour
19 January 2018
New approach combines veterinary medicine with forensics.