For latest Covid-19 information click on the link below.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) update.
Chair of Animal Behaviour & Welfare
Animal Behaviour & Welfare
Animal & Veterinary Sciences
Our primary focus is on understanding the biology of positive animal welfare (PAW) using behaviour as a starting point but also using other disciplines and techniques as applicable including physiology, neurobiology, molecular biology and genetics. PAW is a relatively recent concept that emphasises the importance of animals having positive experiences in their daily life. We study PAW in different ways.
At the conceptual level, we are interested in the various ideas that are included within PAW such as positive emotions and happiness in animals (Lawrence et al., 2019). One idea we are particularly interested in is the idea that animals can experience positive emotions through being able to behave according to their (normal) motivations. Our conceptual work on PAW links to social science research where we try and understand different perspectives of PAW as a way of better targeting improvements to PAW in practice (e.g. Vigors and Lawrence, 2019).
Experimentally we use different approaches to study PAW and positive experiences in animals including studies of play behaviour (e.g. Brown et al., 2015) and the use of environmental enrichment to enhance animal environments (e.g. Brown et al., 2017). Our work also includes the use of ‘rat tickling’ which has been proposed as an approach to induce positive emotions (e.g. Bombail et al., 2019; Hammond et al., 2019).
An important element of our work is to understand the relationship between the conditions under which animals are managed and their brain health. Brain health as a concept has been largely confined to humans and refers to how the brain copes with challenges such as old age and neuro-degenerative diseases. However, much of what we know about brain health comes from animal studies and there is increasing evidence that the concept of brain health also has considerable significance to animal health and welfare. We have found evidence of positive effects from short and longer-term exposure to enrichment in grower pigs on brain development and health (see Brown et al., 2017 and Brown et al., 2018). We are currently analysing the effects of early life enrichment on brain development in piglets using a variety of measurement approaches including MRI.
This research is carried out as a joint activity between SRUC and the University of Edinburgh. My current collaborators include Emma Baxter, Kenny Rutherford, Simon Turner, Cathy Dwyer, Rainer Roehe and Belinda Vigors (SRUC); Simone Meddle, Sarah Brown, Neil Mabbott and Chris Haley (Roslin) and Barry McColl and Gerry Thompson (University of Edinburgh).
I currently teach at undergraduate levels (Veterinary and Agricultural students) and at Masters level (MScs in Applied Animal Behaviour & Welfare and International Animal Welfare, Ethics and Law.
See all of Prof Alistair Lawrence's publications.
Group Manager - Animal & Veterinary Sciences
Address: SRUC, Roslin Institute Building, Easter Bush, Midlothian EH25 9RG
Telephone: 0131 6519343
Fax: 0131 5353121