February 28th, 2023
AWSC December Newsletter
Please follow this link to read the December Centre Newsletter
Thesis title: Human-animal interactions, early life experiences and stress resilience in pigs.
Megan investigated the effects of human contact and housing during rearing on stress in pigs. She found that these early experiences affected the behavioural and physiological responses of pigs later in life to routine commercial stressors, highlighting the importance of the early environment on pig welfare.
Primary supervisor: Prof Paul Hemsworth
Co-supervisors: Dr Lauren Hemsworth, Prof Alan Tilbrook, Dr Rebecca Morrison
Live webinar with Q&A, presented via Zoom. Wed 14th September at 6.00pm AEST.
Featuring Prof Andrew Fisher, Dr Alison Clarke, Dr Mia Cobb, Dr Lauren Hemsworth & Dr Peta Hitchens
The recording of her recent talk at Faculty of Vet & Ag Sci can be accessed here
Presented Tuesday 28 June 2022
Dr Bidda Jones AM BSc(Hons) GradDipPub PhD
In This Talk: Australians care about animal welfare, and their level of concern is growing. But what does this mean for the systems in place that govern how we house, care for, and interact with animals? Do our laws, regulations, and animal welfare standards live up to community expectations, or match what contemporary science tells us about what animals need to experience in terms of good animal welfare? Dr Jones has devoted her career to improving the lives of animals through using science to affect policy change. In this talk, she reflects on her experiences as an animal advocate, and consider what reforms are needed to ensure the interests of animals are heard and respected.
About the Presenter: Dr Bidda Jones is the former Director of RSPCA Australia, whose career with that organisation spanned 25 years, including her recent appointment as a Member of the Order of Australia for her services to animal welfare science and advocacy. Dr Jones is an Honorary Associate with the Sydney School of Veterinary Science. Her research interests focus on improving the welfare of animals in Australian society, from companion animals, animals in sport, native and introduced wild animals, to humane killing and slaughter. Dr Jones is a regular panellist at the Robert Dixon Memorial Symposia and is co-developing an introductory OLE unit on understanding animal welfare. She has published over 35 reports, book chapters, and peer-reviewed articles, and has represented animal welfare interests on numerous national committees and as an invited speaker at multiple conferences, workshops and symposia.
May 31st, 2021
AWSC November Newsletter
Jeremy Skuse moving on
Jeremy Skuse will be stepping down as Executive Officer of the AWSC from June 30. He will continue to have a relationship with the AWSC at the University of Melbourne, especially in the continued development of the ProHand suite of stockperson training programs. Jeremy will also be continuing in his role as EO of the National Primary Industries Animal Welfare RD&E Strategy and hopes to continue working towards bringing people together in discussion to maintain and improve the welfare of animals through sustainable and ethical systems through his business Animal Welfare Connections
Cassandra Tucker Seminar on-line
You can download the narrated presentation and a pdf of Cassandra's presentation at the University of Melbourne. Animal Welfare Assurance - https://www.animalwelfare-science.net/seminars.html
AW Assessment Seminar
Please follow this link to find an expanded version of an article first published on The Conversation website:
Where to now for dairying? link
Chair of Cattle and Sheep Production Medicine, The University of Melbourne
The milk, the whole milk and nothing but the milk: the story behind our dairy woes - Conversation link
Videos - Student Presentations
Videos of presentations from our AWSC Student Research Showcase are available to view and download on our VIMEO site.
Please visit and feel free to share AWSC Student Research Showcase
Grahame Coleman and Paul Hemsworth Animal Welfare Science Centre, University of Melbourne
(First published 2014)
The news media frequently report animal welfare abuses, often as a result of covert recording or filming by animal rights organisations. These stories generate considerable public interest. The message conveyed is that the livestock industry in question engages in poor animal welfare practices and that some aspect of it should be substantially changed or even banned.
Generally, the abuses are instances of inappropriate treatment of animals by carers or someone who is interacting with the animal as part of the production process – for example, prior to slaughter or during shearing. These instances are then generalised to the industry and the conclusion is drawn that the behaviour is widespread and presents a serious welfare risk to the animal.
It is important to establish the prevalence of the behaviours, the reasons for their occurrence and the appropriate industry responses. These points need to be considered in the context that we owe a duty of care towards the animals with which we have contact. Most people agree that it is acceptable to use animals for companionship, food or clothing and even many of those who do not consume meat, do consume other animal products or provide them for their pets. The animals that provide these resources are dependent on humans for food and shelter throughout their lives. Therefore, we do owe a duty of care to those animals that are dependent on us.
In our research, we have found the prevalence of deliberate mistreatment of animals to be low. That is not to say that there are occasions when an individual might mistreat an animal because of a particular set of circumstances, such as in response to the animal’s behaviour or because the person is upset for another reason or is unwell. There also will be cases where a person is so insensitive to the state of the animal that their behaviour is persistently inappropriate. However, most of the instances of poor behaviour arise because the management of animals has largely been learned “on the job” and people may be unaware of the effect of their behaviour on the welfare of the animals under their care. In all these cases of mistreatment, either deliberate or not, the appropriate industry response is to ensure that these behaviours do not occur. Despite the regular media coverage of adverse events, interviews of several hundred stockpeople in the Australian livestock industries by the authors surprisingly indicate that, while many expressed a dislike for various aspects of the job, a clear majority enjoyed working with their animals.
While we might expect farm animals to become fearful if they are mistreated, frequent use of some routine handling behaviours also increases fear and stress levels and thus reduces welfare of commercial farm animals (Hemsworth and Coleman, 2011). Although frequent use of physical force, such as hitting, can increase animal fear, surprisingly the results from our research in the main livestock industries show that the frequent use of routine tactile, auditory and visual handling behaviours, such as slapping, shouting and fast and unexpected movement, is also responsible for high fear and stress in commercial farm animals. Low fear levels at commercial farms are associated with a low percentage of these so-called moderate negative tactile, auditory and visual handling behaviours (eg slapping, shouting and fast and unexpected movement) and a high percentage of so-called positive behaviours, such as talking, patting or stroking and slow and deliberate movement.
It is important to emphasise that the kinds of moderate negative behaviours we are referring to do not represent stockpeople mistreating their animals. It is necessary to occasionally use some moderate negative behaviours when moving farm animals in commercial settings, and it should be recognised that this is a normal part of interacting with the animals. However, it is inappropriate to use negative behaviours more often than is really necessary, just as it is equally inappropriate not to use positive behaviours when the opportunity arises. The important point is that sometimes negative behaviours are necessary when stockpeople are working with animals. If the farm animals were fearless and pet-like, it would be impossible for stockpeople to carry out their routine handling in a timely and safe manner.
There is no evidence that stockpeople are naturally suited to manage animals. Coleman (2004) reviewed the available data and the evidence clearly indicated that the way in which stockpeople handle animals is largely learned. A major factor affecting stockperson behaviour is his or her attitude to the animals and to working with them. These attitudes are based on the beliefs that stockpeople hold about the animals and are shaped by both ad hoc advice from co-workers and by direct and indirect experiences with animals. They are therefore learnt and consequently through training of stockpeople targeting the key attitudes and related behaviour which affect animal fear, should be effective in reducing animal fear and stress and consequently minimising risks to animal welfare through poor handling. In fact, when training programs that are based on an understanding of both the beliefs that underpin behaviour and the appropriate ways of handling animals are used, there is a dramatic improvement in stockperson behaviour with a concomitant improvement in animal welfare as well as animal productivity (Hemsworth and Coleman, 2011).
Therefore, selection and training procedures which target the attitude and behaviour of the stockperson offer considerable opportunity to improve farm animal welfare. This is the new direction for industries. Much has been done to improve genetics, nutrition, health and housing, but efforts to target the stockperson, who performs such a key function, have just begun. Further, an industry response that recognises this will reduce the occurrence of adverse events, assist in ensuring that the workforce is well suited to handling animals and will also improve the overall welfare and productivity of livestock. Most industries have animal welfare policies in place, but policies alone do not change the behaviour of individuals unless there are major sanctions that are enforced but this requires constant surveillance which is rarely practical or acceptable in the workplace. Direct interventions, in the form of targeted behaviour change training programs, as our research has shown (Coleman, 2004; Hemsworth and Coleman, 2011), provide a proactive means to retain a skilled workforce that acts in the best interests of the animals under their care. Such programs (for example ProHand, an attitude and behaviour change program) lead to cultural change within the organisation which, in turn, reduces the prevalence of mistreatment of animals by changing the disposition of stockpeople and by peer pressure from co-workers.
Coleman, G.J. (2004) Personnel Management in Livestock industries. In: Benson, G.J. and Rollin, B.E. (eds.) The Well-Being of Farm Animals: Challenges and Solutions. Blackwell Publishing, Ames, Iowa, USA, pp.167-181.
Hemsworth, P.H., and Coleman, G.J. (2011). “Human-Livestock Interactions: The Stockperson and the Productivity and Welfare of Farmed Animals”, 2nd Edition CAB International, Oxon UK.
AWSC Student Showcase - Program
Please download the full program for the event by clicking here
AWSC Student Showcase
Melbourne University’s Animal Welfare Science Centre contributes to improved animal welfare as a world leading provider of expert information, advice and education underpinned by rigorous research. Formed in 1997, we have developed our scientific research and teaching capacity in animal welfare science and have made many important national and international contributions to animal welfare research, teaching and training.
We have designed this event to give prospective students and those who are interested in our work a chance to find out about our research and how it improves the lives of animals. Attendees will also be able to chat with our students and get an idea of the varied employment opportunities which are available for graduating students.
RSVP to Jeremy Skuse
Congrats to Carmen Glanville!
Congratulations to Carmen Glanville - winner of the University of Melbourne's Visualise your Thesis competition for her presentation "Protecting Pets by Changing People".
The competition challenges graduate researchers to present their research in a 60 second, eye-catching digital display. Using a pre-supplied template, entrants are tasked with developing a striking looped presentation to encapsulate their research projects in short, engaging, digital narratives.
Carmen will represent the University of Melbourne in the online 2019 International Visualise Your Thesis Competition.
See her presentation HERE
Paul Hemsworth awarded Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for significant services to agricultural science and to animal welfare
Paul has had a strong interest from an early age in wildlife, agriculture and biology. He graduated from the University of Melbourne with a Bachelor of Agricultural Science (Honours) in 1973 and following a brief period as a scientist with the Department of Agriculture, Werribee, Victoria, he completed his PhD in 1978 at the University of Melbourne studying social and sexual factors affecting reproduction of the domestic boar. After completing a post-doctoral fellowship 1980 at the Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Utrecht, The Netherlands, studying human-animal relationships in commercial pig farms, he returned to Department of Agriculture, Werribee, Victoria as a research scientist and then principal scientist until 1997. Paul was a G.A. Miller Research Fellow at the Department of Animal Science, University of Illinois, Illinois, 1982-1983 and Daniel Alpine Scholar at the Department of Animal Science, University of California, Davis, USA, 1993. From 1997 - 2018, he was the Director of the Animal Welfare Science Centre, The University of Melbourne. Awards and recognition for his leadership and scientific contribution include the 1996 Animal Welfare Research Award by the British RSPCA and the British Society of Animal Science and the David Wood-Gush Memorial Lecture at the 33rd International Society for Applied Ethology, Norway 1999.
Paul is internationally recognised for his contribution to animal welfare science and his pioneering research with Professor Grahame Coleman on the role of human-animal interactions on farm animal productivity and welfare has had a global impact. This unique and innovative multidisciplinary research program identified the major human characteristics, such as attitude and behaviour, affecting fear responses in farm animals which through acute and chronic stress can seriously limit farm animal productivity and welfare. By understanding the influence of human attitudes and behaviour on animal fear, stress, productivity and welfare, this research has shown the applicability of training programs in the dairy, pig and poultry industries targeting the key influential human characteristics to improve farm animal welfare and productivity. More recently this research has included studying the effects of human-animal interactions in zoos and domestic settings
Professor Mike Mendl, from the University of Bristol, is developing new ways of assessing animal welfare that work to improve the wellbeing and conditions of all animals - join him in this University of Melbourne Pursuit Podcast.
AWSC Seminar - Assessing Animal Affect
Many thanks to Mike Mendl, (University of Bristol) who delivered a very thoughtful presentation on Assessing Animal Affect at the University of Melbourne on 15th May.
His presentation is available to download as a pdf or as a video file at our Vimeo site.
AWSC - US Collaborations
The AWSC is delighted to announce that its collaborations with The Ohio State University (OSU) and the United States Department of Agriculture's Livestock Behavior Research Unit (LBRU) have been formalised through memoranda of understanding between the University and the US institutions.
The AWSC has a long history of collaboration with OSU through collaboration in teaching, research (pigs and lamb) and extension (ProHand Pigs). We look forward to increasing collaboration with key OSU scientists.
Our relationship with LBRU has recently borne fruit with Jeremy Marchant-Forde's contribution towards our recently-awarded ARC Linkage Project which will examine stress resilience in pigs.
AWSSUM Scientific Writing Workshop
The Animal Welfare Science Students of UniMelb recently presented a workshop on scientific writing which was delivered by Prof. David Lindsay. Over 100 people registered! It was such an inspiring day. Great turnout, great seminar, great food!
David's presentation can be downloaded HERE
Wednesday 15th May 2019
2.00pm – 3.00pm
VETERINARY PRECLINICAL SCIENCES-214 [SMALL THEATRE]
Corner Flemington Rd and Park Dr, Parkville VIC 3052 - (Entry to building from Park Drive)
RSVP before 3rd May to Jeremy Skuse
Mike obtained a PhD in animal behaviour at Cambridge University in 1986. He then took a Royal Society European Research Fellowship to continue his work on behavioural development at Groningen University in the Netherlands, before returning to work at Cambridge University Vet School where he moved into the field of applied animal behaviour and welfare. He subsequently took up a position as a Behavioural Scientist at the Scottish Agricultural College in Edinburgh, continuing his work on pig behaviour and welfare, and then moved to Bristol University Vet School where he is now Professor of Animal Behaviour and Welfare
His current research interests are in the study of cognition, emotion, and social behaviour in domestic animals, with a view to using this information to improve animal welfare. Together with Dr Liz Paul, he developed a novel ‘cognitive bias’ approach to the assessment of animal emotions which draws on theory and findings from human psychology and cognitive neuroscience.
Mike was awarded the UFAW Medal in 2014 for his contributions to animal welfare science, and the RSPCA/BSAS Award for Innovative Developments in Animal Welfare in 2015. Mike also works on more applied animal welfare issues, with current interests in the relationship between housing and husbandry procedures and the health and welfare of farm, laboratory and zoo animals, and chronic pain conditions in domestic dogs.
Remembering John & Jenny Barnett
It is 10 years since the Black Saturday Victorian bushfires which claimed the lives of John and Jenny Barnett along with so many others.
This week, we remember John, Jenny and all affected on and after that terrible day.
John’s main area of expertise was stress physiology and its application to the study of domestic animal welfare. His research over 30 years provided a timely balance on discussions within science and the livestock industries on welfare
methodology and interpretations and the impact of his research continues to improve animal welfare methodology.
John’s research on pigs and poultry made a critical contribution to our understanding of the welfare risks associated with confinement housing, highlighting the major risks of confinement that arise from spatial and social restriction.
He worked extensively with the livestock industries in developing welfare components of livestock industry QA programs and in assisting to achieve improvements in awareness and practices to safeguard animal welfare standards.
His outstanding scientific efforts have been highly acclaimed nationally and internationally by both science and the livestock industries and animal welfare science has greatly missed his important contributions.
Jenny was a researcher with the Victorian National Parks Association, completed work on mammal counts, endangered species and fuel-reduction burning, which she supported in the state's national parks. She was also a voice for the environment, tirelessly campaigning on wildlife issues in the media.
Research, engagement and teaching activities and achievements.