Listen: What are the effects of human interactions on farm animals?

Animals benefit from environments which deliver good animal welfare, and farmers and farm workers do too. But how do we measure animal welfare scientifically? Professor Paul Hemswort introduced animal welfare science and shared research from the Animal Welfare Science Centre in a recent seminar.
Paul Hemsworth
Professor Paul Hemsworth

Human-animal interactions may result in profound behavioural and physiological changes in the animal. Experiments demonstrate that handling of a negative nature can impair animal welfare, health and performance, primarily through animal fear and stress.

Furthermore, field observations on stockperson-animal interactions and intervention studies in the livestock industries demonstrate sequential relationships between human attitudes, human behaviour, animal behaviour, animal stress and animal productivity and provide evidence of causal relationships between these human and animal variables.

This research in the livestock industries provides a strong case for introducing stockperson training courses in the livestock industries that target stockperson attitudes and behaviour.

There is however the need for more research on the influence of animal carers in other settings, such as in domestic and zoo settings, to better understand the importance of the human–animal relationship. Furthermore, while the effects of human interactions of a negative nature on the animal are well understood and recognised, the benefits of a positive human-animal relationship on the animal are poorly understood.

In this Dean’s Research Seminar, Professor Hemsworth reviewed this research and the need to understand these relationships in all animal use settings as well as the opportunities to not only safeguard animal welfare, but develop positive human–animal relationships to achieve positive animal welfare outcomes.

Watch or listen below.

The Dean’s Research Seminars showcase the breadth and importance of our research in food, agriculture and veterinary science. Each seminar aims to provide an overview of an area of research in a manner accessible to all staff, graduate researchers and students.

Professor Paul Hemsworth

Paul Hemsworth is a Redmond Barry Distinguished Professor at the Animal Welfare Science Centre, Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, University of Melbourne. He has studied animal behaviour and welfare, particularly that of farm animals, and more recently zoo animals.

Recognition of Professor Hemsworth's scientific contribution has included the Animal Welfare Research Award by the British RSPCA (1996), David Wood-Gush Memorial Lecture, International Society for Applied Ethology (1999), Order of Australia (AM) for significant services to agricultural science and to animal welfare (2019) and the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW) Medal for outstanding contributions to animal welfare science (2019).