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Prof Alistair Lawrence

Chair of Animal Behaviour & Welfare
Animal Behaviour & Welfare
Animal & Veterinary Sciences

Research interests 

My research is carried out as a joint activity between SRUC and the University of Edinburgh. My current collaborators include Emma Baxter and Melanie Connor (SRUC), Simone Meddle, Sarah Brown, Barry McColl and David Hume (Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh); Bob Fisher (Informatics, University of Edinburgh), Jo Williams (Clinical Psychology, University of Edinburgh), Candace Currie (University of St Andrews) and Ruth Newberry (Norwegian University of Life Sciences).

Our primary focus is on understanding the biology of positive welfare using behaviour as a starting point but also using other disciplines and techniques as applicable including physiology, neurobiology, molecular biology and genetics.

We are interested in the causes and consequences of ‘positive’ behaviour such as play in farm animals and for this have been studying differences between individuals and litters of pigs. We are also interested in developing video recognition of play behaviour given the difficulties in quantifying and recording the behaviour using conventional approaches.

Our focus also includes characterising positive psychological states in animals using conditions such as environmental enrichment to study behaviour and brain effects of putatively pleasurable conditions.

We are also working towards developing strategies to support pigs and other young animals under our care to ‘thrive’, that is to express optimal physical and behavioural development.

We are also working on understanding how young people relate to animals and how to improve their behaviour and sense of responsibility to animals through school based interventions. 

Selected research projects

  • The neuroscience of positive behaviour and welfare
    This is a joint project with the Roslin Institute and SRUC and is currently focused on analysis of play behaviour and the neuroscience of environmental enrichment in pigs
  • Thriving is more than surviving
    This SRUC funded project aims to develop strategies to support behavioural and physical development in pigs
  • Developing a Duty of Care to Animals in Young People
    This Defra funded project aims to develop evidence based school based interventions to increase the sense of responsibility of young people to animals
  • Understanding expert and lay perspectives of positive welfare
    This project is a part of the RESAS funded Strategic Research Programme (Work Package on Welfare Assessment) and seeks to understand the implications of science and lay perspectives of positive animal welfare for welfare assessment


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. 

Selected publications

  • Brown,S.M., Klaffenbock,M., Nevison,I.M. & Lawrence,A.B. 2015. Evidence for litter differences in play behaviour in pre-weaned pigs. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 172, 17-25.
  • Rutherford,K.M.D., Piastowska-Ciesielska,A., Donald,R.D., Robson,S.K., Ison,S.H., Jarvis,S., Brunton,P.J., Russell,J.A. & Lawrence,A.B. 2014. Prenatal stress produces anxiety prone female offspring and impaired maternal behaviour in the domestic pig. Physiology & Behavior, 129, 255-264.
  • Lawrence,A.B. & Wall,E. 2014. Selection for 'environmental fit' from existing domesticated species. Revue Scientifique et Technique-Office International des Epizooties, 33, 171-179.
  • Wemelsfelder,F., Hunter,A.E., Paul,E.S. & Lawrence,A.B. 2012. Assessing pig body language: Agreement and consistency between pig farmers, veterinarians, and animal activists. Journal of Animal Science, 90, 3652-3665.
  • 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.

See all of Prof Alistair Lawrence's publications.

Prof Alistair Lawrence

Group Manager - Animal & Veterinary Sciences

Address: SRUC, Roslin Institute Building, Easter Bush, Midlothian EH25 9RG

Telephone: 0131 6519343

Fax: 0131 5353121