Dr Francoise Wemelsfelder

Research Interests

Francoise WemelsfelderMy main research interest is the development of scientific approaches for the study of animals as whole sentient beings (i.e. as subjects rather than objects), bringing insights from philosophy of mind and social psychology and anthropology into the study of animal emotion. In collaboration with colleagues from SRUC and other institutes I have developed and validated a methodology for the study of animal body language and subjective experience, generally referred to as ‘Qualitative Behaviour Assessment’ (QBA). My current work focuses on the application of this method as a practical tool for welfare management in farm, zoo, and companion animals. Research interests associated with this work are animal boredom and environmental enrichment.

Understanding animals as subjects should affect the social context in which we live with animals, and I am therefore also involved in social science and humanities research work, both at SRUC and other institutes. In this context my interest is how communication with animals and the landscapes in which they live may support the building of sustainable rural communities. This interest was much enriched by the sabbatical year I spent in the department of social anthropology of the University of Aberdeen. I would like my work to contribute to a greater integration between natural and social sciences, and to a growing trust in relational forms of knowledge.

Research Projects

  • Scottish Government WP6.3.1. Cross-validate QBA against other welfare measures, further develop QBA, produce QBA welfare assessment protocols. In collaboration with Prof Cathy Dwyer at SRUC
  • Scottish Government WP6.3.2. Implement QBA to assess and improve welfare and ‘good quality of life’ on farms
  • EU FP7: AWIN Project WP1. Developing welfare assessment protocols for sheep, goats, horses and donkeys. I act as a consultant for the QBA research involved in these projects, in collaboration with Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and UK colleagues
  • SRUC internal KTE funding. Developing QBA as a tool for vet nurse education. In collaboration with Kirsty Young and Karen Martyniuk at SRUC
  • Assurewel and SRUC funding. Developing a QBA app for automated data recording. In collaboration with Tomasz Krzyzelewski at SRUC EGENES and Dr David Main at Bristol University
  • EU FP6: Welfare Quality WP2.  The development of qualitative indicators for the on-farm monitoring of pig, cattle and poultry welfare (in collaboration with many European colleagues; completed)

Current PhD Students

  • Susan Richmond:  Development of welfare assessment protocols for extensively managed sheep; funded by EU FP7 (with Prof Cathy Dwyer and Dr Jo Conington)


I teach Animal Cognition and Consciousness on the MSc in Applied Animal Behaviour and Welfare at the University of Edinburgh, and also on the on-line MSc in International Animal Welfare, Ethics and Law at the University of Edinburgh. I am an annual guest lecturer on the MSc in Holistic Science at Schumacher College, Devon (accredited by Plymouth University). I supervise MSc dissertation projects for these courses.

Selected Publications

  • Wemelsfelder, F. and Mullan, S. 2014. Applying ethological and health indicators to practical animal welfare assessment. In: Animal Welfare: focusing on the future (Ed. D.J. Mellor), OIE Scientific and Technical Review, Vol. 33 (1). In press
  • Fleming, P.A., Paisley, C., Barnes, A.L. and Wemelsfelder, F. 2013. Application of Qualitative Behaviour Assessment to horses during an endurance ride. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 144, 80-88
  • Phythian, C.J., Michalopoulou, E., Duncan, J.S., and Wemelsfelder, F. 2013.  Inter-observer reliability of Qualitative Behavioural Assessments of sheep. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 144, 73-79
  • Andreasen, S.N., Wemelsfelder, F., Sandøe, P. and Forkman, B. 2013. The correlation of Qualitative Behaviour Assessments with Welfare Quality® protocol outcomes in on-farm welfare assessment of dairy cattle. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 143, 9-17
  • Stockman, C.A., Collins, T., Barnes, A.L., Miller D., Wickham, S.L., Beatty, D.T., Blachec, D., Wemelsfelder, F., Fleming, P.A. 2013. Flooring and driving conditions during road transport influence the behavioural expression of cattle. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 143: 18-30
  • Wemelsfelder, F., A.S. Hunter, E.S. Paul, A.B. Lawrence. 2012. Assessing pig body language: agreement and consistency between pig farmers, veterinarians, and animal activists. Journal of Animal Science 90, 3652-3665
  • Napolitano, F., De Rosa, G., Grasso, F., Wemelsfelder, F. 2012. Qualitative behaviour assessment of dairy buffalos (Bubalis bubalis). Applied Animal Behaviour Science 141, 91-100
  • Rutherford, K.M.D., Donald, R.D., Lawrence, A.B., Wemelsfelder, F. 2012. Qualitative Behavioural Assessment of emotionality in pigs. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 139, 218-224
  • Wickham, S.L., Collins, T., Barnes, A.L., Miller, D.W., Beatty, D.T., Stockman, C., Wemelsfelder, F., Fleming, P.A. 2012. Qualitative behavioral assessment of transport-naive and transport-habituated sheep. Journal of Animal Science 90 (12),  4523-4535
  • Stockman, C.A., McGilchrist, P., Collins, T.,  Barnes, A.L., Miller, D., Wickham, S.L., Greenwood, P.L., Café, L.M., Blache, D., Wemelsfelder, F., and Fleming, P.A.,  2012. Qualitative Behavioural Assessment of Angus steers during pre-slaughter handling and relationship with temperament and physiological responses. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 142: 125-133
  • Stockman, C.A., Collins, T.,  Barnes, A.L., Miller, D., Wickham, S.L., Beatty., D.T., Blache, D., Wemelsfelder, F., Fleming, P.A.,  2011. Qualitative behavioural assessment and quantitative physiological measurement of cattle naive and habituated to road transport. Animal Production Science 51, 240-249
  • Walker, J., Dale A., Waran, N., Clarke, N., Farnworth, M., Wemelsfelder, F. 2010. The assessment of emotional expression in dogs using a Free Choice Profiling methodology. Animal Welfare 19 (1), 75-84
  • Wemelsfelder, F., Nevison, I., Lawrence, A.B. 2009. The effect of perceived environmental background on qualitative assessments of pig behaviour. Animal Behaviour 78, 477-484
  • Minero, M., Tosi, M.V., Canali, E. and Wemelsfelder, F. 2009. Quantitative and qualitative assessment of the response of foals to the presence of an unfamiliar human. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 116: 74-81
  • Brscic, M., Wemelsfelder, F., Tessitore, E., Gottardo, F., Cozzi, G., Reenen, Van, C.G. 2009. Welfare assessment: correlations and integration between a Qualitative Behavioural Assessment and a clinical/health protocol applied in veal calves farms. Italian Journal of Animal Science 8(Suppl. 2), 301-306.

Selected Book Chapters

  • Wemelsfelder, F. 2012. A science of friendly pigs: carving out a conceptual space for addressing animals as sentient beings. In: Birke, L. and Hockenhull, J. (eds). Crossing Boundaries: Investigating human-animal relationships. Brill, Leiden. pp. 223-251
  • Spinka, M. and Wemelsfelder, F. 2011. Environmental challenge and animal agency. In: Appleby, M.C., Mench, J.A., Olsson, A. and Hughes, B.O. (eds). Animal Welfare. Second edition. CABI, UK. pp. 27-44
  • Wemelsfelder, F. 2005. Animal Boredom: Understanding the tedium of confined lives. In: F. McMillan (ed.), Mental Health and Well-Being in Animals. Blackwell Publishing, Oxford. pp 79-93

Dr Francoise Wemelsfelder

Senior Researcher

Address: Animal & Veterinary Sciences, SRUC, Roslin Institute Building, Easter Bush, Midlothian EH25 9RG

Telephone: 0131 651 9349

Fax: 0131 535 3121

E-mail: francoise.wemelsfelder@sruc.ac.uk