Just when you think you’ve seen it all, something like this comes along. Dairy farmers on the Krasnogorsk Farm near Moscow have fitted specially designed virtual reality headsets to their cows. Yes, really. The cows are being treated to a simulation of a summer field in an attempt to improve their general wellbeing so that they will produce more milk.
The Matrix is on hand to bring robotics apparently to improve the welfare of cattle. Is this progress? Is this kind and compassionate animal welfare? Or is this cynical abuse?
The Ministry of Agriculture and Food in Moscow announced that the experiment had “reduced anxiety and improved overall emotional mood in the herd”.
Authorities hope the VR headsets will help increase milk production
“In addition to physical needs, researchers began to pay more attention to the emotional state of animals. Examples of dairy farms from different countries show that in a calm atmosphere, the quantity, and sometimes the quality, of milk increases markedly” says the Ministry.
The farmers, computer developers and vets have all conspired to produce this experiment. Now they move to the next phase: to see if the cows’ improved mood will result in an increase in milk production.
IT specialists made changes to the colour palette in the virtual reality software to make it more suitable for the cows’ vision. Cows do not see the same spectrum of colours that humans do. According to the Russian Ministry, numerous studies of cattle vision show that cows perceiving shades of red quite well but have a weaker vision in the green and blue tones of the spectrum. In this way, the virtual reality consultants created a “unique summer field simulation program”.
The Ministry cites research from Wageningen University in the Netherlands and the Rural College in Scotland which postulates that positive environmental health in cows can lead to increased milk production. It notes that some US farms are using rotating brushes to massage cows.
This story is mentally filed under the surreal category. It would surely be a lot kinder to allow cows to wander naturally in fields. I imagine that after wearing these masks the shock of finding themselves in a rather dreary battery farm conditions would be rather a shock and somewhat depressing after a quick bit of artificially induced dopamine in the brain.
Animal lovers have reacted overwhelmingly on social media with disgust.