Award for pioneering research on the role of human-animal interactions in welfare

Professor Paul Hemsworth has been announced as the 2019 winner of the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Animal Welfare Science.

The Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW) is an independent scientific and educational animal welfare charity. It works to improve animal welfare and knowledge and understanding of animals’ needs through grants, awards, advice, reports and its journal Animal Welfare.

For almost four decades Professor Hemsworth has pioneered and led internationally acclaimed research on the role of human-animal interactions on the welfare and productivity of farm livestock.

He was named a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in June 2019 for significant service to agricultural science, and to animal welfare.

Professor Paul Hemsworth with Dr Robert Hubrecht
Professor Paul Hemsworth with Dr Robert Hubrecht, Chief Executive and Scientific Director Universities Federation for Animal Welfare and the Humane Slaughter Association.

Professor Hemsworth’s research, at over 500 publications and 200 peer-reviewed papers, has shown how human characteristics, such as attitudes and behaviour towards farm animals, affect their fear and acute and chronic stress responses – seriously limiting both farm animal welfare and productivity.

By understanding the influence of human attitudes and behaviour on animal fear, stress, productivity and welfare, this research underpinned the development and application of purpose-designed training programs in the dairy, pig and poultry industries.

These programs successfully modified key human characteristics and resulted in improvements in farm animal welfare and productivity.

His research program was multi-faceted, evolving from studies in laboratories and farms, then extended to psychological investigation of both the impact of stockperson attitudes on farm livestock and motivational modification of stockpersons – resulting in welfare and productivity improvement.

Most recently he has extended his work to human-animal interactions in zoos and domestic settings.

In 1997, Professor Hemsworth jointly established the Animal Welfare Science Centre with the University of Melbourne, Monash University and the Department of Natural Resources and Environment (Victoria).

As Director, a post he held until 2017, he led it to become the pre-eminent such Centre in Australia and for it to deservedly enjoy a reputation internationally as an innovative major contributor to animal welfare science developments involving the key disciplines of animal behaviour, psychology, stress physiology and veterinary medicine.

The Centre's influence on animal welfare thinking under Professor Hemsworth’s leadership and active involvement in supervision has been widely spread by its 45 postgraduate students who successfully completed PhD, Masters and Honours degrees.

“Paul has led the country’s most productive research group, has trained many of its younger animal welfare scientists and plays a leading role in the practical development of animal welfare standards and practices in Australia and elsewhere,” Professor David Fraser, who was one of Professor Hemsworth’s nominees, said.

“He is undoubtedly the country’s leading exponent of science-based approaches to animal welfare and the field worldwide has benefitted greatly from his leadership in the area of human-animal interaction as a key determinant of animal welfare.”

Fellow nominee Professor Peter Sand√łe of the University of Copenhagen said Professor Hemsworth’s “seminal and highly original” contributions to the science of animal-human interactions had earned him the award.

“Paul and his team have not only studied the role of the stockperson for farm animal welfare but also developed ways to implement their findings through training programs for stockpeople,” he said.

UFAW said Professor Hemsworth has also put a warm human face on the field of animal welfare science throughout his career, welcoming scientists to his group and supporting his colleagues and ensuring that they received full credit for their contributions to their joint projects.

“Professor Hemsworth has led the field in the area of human-animal interaction research, with outstanding results that have benefitted farm animals worldwide and laid foundations for the next generation of animal welfare scientists to continue,” UFAW Chief Executive Dr Robert Hubrecht, who presented the award, said.

“His exceptional body of work over 40 years has been truly outstanding.”

The commemorative medal and award was presented to Professor Hemsworth at UFAW’s 2019 International Symposium in Bruges, Belgium on the Thursday 4 July.

The UFAW Medal recognises exceptional achievements of individual scientists who have made fundamental contributions to the advancement of animal welfare over a number of years. The award is open to individuals, anywhere in the world, whose research, teaching, service and advocacy has significantly benefited the welfare of animals.