Sheeps’ emo­tions are not a baarmy idea af­ter all

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

THEY may hide it well, but sheep ex­pe­ri­ence a wide range of emo­tions just like us. Now sci­en­tists have come up with a way to tell if a sheep is happy or sad – by us­ing fu­tur­is­tic fa­cial recog­ni­tion tech­nol­ogy.

While it seems a baarmy idea, the de­vice can be used to de­tect pain and alert farmers to diseases among their flock. The tech­nol­ogy was first de­vel­oped for use on peo­ple, but re­searchers from Cam­bridge Univer­sity re­alised that it could be used to de­ci­pher emo­tions in an­i­mals too.

It is hoped that face scan­ners could be placed at wa­ter troughs to au­to­mat­i­cally de­tect when a sheep is suf­fer­ing from foot rot and mas­ti­tis, a painful ud­der in­fec­tion. It has been sug­gested that sheep hide their emo­tions, as show­ing they are ill would make them a tar­get for preda­tors.

But when a sheep is in pain, five things hap­pen to its face. Its eyes nar­row, its cheeks tighten, its ears fold for­wards, its lips pull down and back, and its nos­trils change from a U to a V-shape.

Pro­fes­sor Peter Robin­son, of Cam­bridge Univer­sity, said: “A lot of the ear­lier work on the faces of an­i­mals was ac­tu­ally done by Dar­win, who ar­gued that all hu­mans and many an­i­mals show emo­tion through re­mark­ably sim­i­lar be­hav­iours, so we thought there would likely be cross­over be­tween an­i­mals and our work in hu­man faces.” – Daily Mail

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