Projects per year
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 Hayley (Roslin) and Barry McColl and Gerry Thompson (University of Edinburgh).
Professor of Animal Behaviour and Welfare at Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and the Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh. Professor Lawrence is an established international expert in animal behaviour and welfare. He carried out his PhD on sheep social behaviour under the supervision of Professor David Wood-Gush (an early founder of animal welfare science) before building a team of researchers focusing on the application of animal behaviour to interpret and improve animal welfare in a range of farm species. His past research interests have included the aetiology of stereotypic behaviour, the measurement of stress and negative emotional states, the role of early experience in neonatal development and welfare, the genetics of behavioural traits and young peoples’ perceptions of animal welfare. Since stepping down as Head of the Animal & Veterinary Science Group (SRUC) in 2014 he has been working on positive animal welfare including conceptual work and experimental research on play behaviour and environmental enrichment. More recently, he has begun work on the concept of brain health and the relevance of this to animal health and welfare.
I regard teaching as an essential aspect of an academic career. I have taught throughout my career at undergraduate and postgraduate levels to a mixture of students from biological, agricultural and veterinary courses. I am a co-founder of the internationally recognised MSc in Applied Animal & Welfare at Edinburgh which has been running successfully in Edinburgh since 1990.
PhD, University of Edinburgh
1 Sep 1980 → 1 Jan 1984
Award Date: 14 Jul 1984
Bachelor, University of St Andrews
1 Sep 1973 → 1 Jul 1977
Award Date: 1 Jul 1977
1/09/18 → 30/09/22
Lawrence, AB., Spinka, M. & Winckler, C., Feb 2020, In : Journal of Dairy Science. 103, 2, p. 1866-1873 8 p.
Research output: Contribution to journal › Article › peer-reviewOpen AccessFile
Lawrence, AB. & Vigors, B., Jul 2020, The Economics of Farm Animal Welfare. Ahmadi, B., Moran, D. & D'Eath, R. (eds.). UK: CABI International, p. 1-29 29 p.
Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceeding › Chapter
Lawrence, A. B. & Dwyer, C. M., 10 Jan 2020, In : Frontiers in Veterinary Science. 6, 495.
Research output: Contribution to journal › Article › peer-reviewOpen AccessFile3 Citations (Scopus)11 Downloads (Pure)
Odour conditioning of positive affective states: rats can learn to associate an odour with being tickledBombail, V., Jerome, N., Lam, H., Muszlak, S., Meddle, S. L., Lawrence, AB. & Nielsen, B. L., 12 Jun 2019, In : PLoS ONE. 14, 6, e0212829.
Research output: Contribution to journal › Article › peer-reviewOpen AccessFile5 Downloads (Pure)
Lawrence, AB. & Brown, S. M., Dec 2019, In : Applied Animal Behaviour Science. 221, 104879.
Research output: Contribution to journal › Article › peer-reviewOpen AccessFile3 Downloads (Pure)
Alistair Lawrence (Speaker)5 Nov 2020
Activity: Talk or presentation types › Invited talk
1 Media contribution