Marco Werman: I'm Marco Weramn, this is The World. You ever notice how no matter how challenging the climate or how remote the geography, you'll always find goats. Okay, goats have their limits too, but how do they manage to live in so many different environments? One answer appears to be they're resilient because they're smart. That's the conclusion by a study conducted by Swiss researcher Dr. Elodie Briefer. Now when I look at the face of a goat, Doctor, I see kind of a stupid looking animal, deadpan stare. So make the case for the smart goat. What does your research show?
Elodie Briefer: That's the common public impression, that goats and most other farm animals are not very intelligent, but actually not much is known about their cognician because much research and cognition works on animals that are known to be intelligent, such as primates and crows and parrots. But by working with them, we realize that they are actually very curious animals. Most people who own goats, they know that they can open locks and escape from any pen. We taught them a complex task. They had a food box where they could get food by doing two steps: they had to take a lever out of the box and then lift it up to get the food to fall into a bowl. We taught them to do this task and they learned quite quickly. Then we tested their memory one month later and then again 10 months later without seeing the box. After these really long intervals, they could solve the task within two minutes, which was quite surprising for us.
Werman: How does this change our appreciation of goats now?
Briefer: For us, it confirms what I originally thought about them. They can manipulate objects easily, they can learn a complex task and they can remember them. It shows the common public that actually the idea that farm animals are stupid animals is not really true.
Werman: If you look at mountain goats, goats in the wild, they have some incredible ability to balance themselves on sheer cliffs. What happened to goats when they were domesticated?
Briefer: We don't really know because we didn't have the opportunity to test wild goats. It's quite difficult to do because we would need animals that are used to humans, otherwise they would be too stressed and it would decrease their performance.
Werman: So farm animals, we know their use for food, when it's about meat we have to kill them. Did your research change your own attitudes about meat consumption, finding out that this goat actually is a lot smarter and maybe might respond to getting killed in a way that might be human?
Briefer: Personally, I'm a vegetarian, so it didn't. I've been working with animals for awhile and I know these animals are not stupid at all.
Werman: Is that why you got into this work in the first place, because you're a vegetarian?
Briefer: I always liked animals and yeah, I wanted to work with them and know them better. I studied them in a scientific way to improve our knowledge of these animals.
Werman: Dr. Elodie Briefer with the Institute of Agricultural Sciences in Zurich, thank you very much for your time.
Briefer: You're welcome.