Scotland's Rural College
My background is in human and animal physiology and I have sought to apply this discipline to understanding "stress" in animals particularly livestock in a commercial agricultural setting and how this relates to their welfare status.
My focus, for many years, has been upon environmental stress with specific emphasis upon thermal stress during animal transportation and in commercial production environments. I and my colleagues have developed a wide range of approaches and techniques for the characterisation of physiological stress responses in a number of species, including pigs, sheep, cattle and poultry.
A major strength of the approach is the incorporation of quantitative indices of physiological stress into predictive, integrative models that allow definition of acceptable ranges and limits for common stressors experienced by animals in everyday production environments and during transportation.
This approach, in turn, facilitates the development of improved commercial practices and procedures, better codes of practice, informed and relevant animal welfare legislation and contributes to advances in the design and operation of animal facilities, transport containers and vehicles.
I advise Defra and the industry on welfare issues relating to animal transport and production environments and serve on EFSA committees addressing animal transport legislation. The scientific approaches that my group employ, of necessity, require multi-disciplinary inputs and I work extensively with collaborators in the UK, other European countries, Canada, USA and South Africa.
Thus we currently integrate the outputs from physiological, behavioural, environmental and physical sciences studies to produce a holistic view of the effects of stressors upon animals. The modelling of stress responses has been extended to include the influence of production stressors upon other physiological systems in livestock including skeletal muscle and how this relates to meat quality and welfare in slaughter animals and to the effects of environmental challenges upon intestinal absorption of nutrients.
Current work is chiefly related to the long distance transport of pigs within Europe and the effects of hot weather conditions on animal welfare in transit.