Animals in Society: Human-Animal Interactions and Ethics

We study the interplay between humans and animals in society with a particular focus on animal welfare and its improvement. We use approaches from psychology, ethics, and social sciences to investigate human attitudes and behaviour towards animals.

Animal welfare science only makes sense within the context of human societies. Domestic animals are manipulated genetically, developmentally and environmentally by human activities, and those activities are profoundly influenced both directly and indirectly (e.g. through economic pressures) by human attitudes, knowledge, and related factors. Human behaviour change is therefore a powerful route to improved animal welfare, and understanding the drivers behind human attitudes and behaviour, and evaluating the optimum strategies for encouraging change, are legitimate fields of investigation for our group. We study the underlying psychological and societal influences on human attitudes to animals, and the ethical structures that influence how we treat them (e.g. attitudes and perceptions to companion animal welfare problems; farmers’ attitudes towards lameness in cattle and tail-biting in pigs; attitudes amongst veterinary surgeons).


Dr Emily Blackwell
Senior Lecturer in Animal Behaviour and Welfare

Dr Liz Paul
Senior Research Fellow

Dr Nicola Rooney
Senior Lecturer in Wildlife and Conservation

Ongoing work and collaborators include

  • Understanding owner’s attitudes towards brachycephalic dogs (Collaborator: Dr Rowena Packer, RVC)
  • Understanding variation in people’s beliefs about the sentience of animals (Collaborator: Dr Nancy Clarke, WAP)
  • The value of education for improving companion dog welfare (Collaborator: Professor Justin Dillon (Exeter University))
  • Christian Ethics of Farmed Animal Welfare (Collaborators Prof David Clough, University of Chester; Dr David Grummet, University of Edinburgh)
  • Ethical decision-making in veterinary practice (Collaborator: Prof Paul McGreevy, University of Sydney)
  • Pet ownership and human health (Collaborator: Dr Jennifer McDonald, Cats Protection)
  • Understanding owner’s attitudes towards problematic behaviours in companion animals (Collaborator: Dr Emma Williams, School of Experimental Psychology)
Edit this page