Animal Welfare & Emerging Clinical Topics

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

Farm Animal Health

Our research on Farm Animal Health covers a wide range of clinically relevant subjects in many animal species, but is well embedded in and connected to the research infrastructure of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. Read more


As the discipline that explains disease, pathology plays an important role in analysing and explaining disease processes and final disease outcome in domestic and wild animals. We perform analyses at the animal, organ, tissue and cell level, with further evaluation at the molecular level if needed. Read more