My research interests include communication between birds and fish, social hierarchy formation, animal consciousness and animal welfare. I have particular interests in putting welfare research into practice and in the relationship between good welfare and the immune system.
Together with Steve Roberts of the Department of Engineering Science, I have been developing a computer/camera system for life-long monitoring the welfare of chickens called OpticFlock. OpticFlock works by analysing the statistical patterns made by the movements of chicken flocks. We have shown that it can detect anomalies in flock movement that reveal and predict welfare issues such as lameness. It can even pick out flocks at risk of becoming infected with Campylobacter days or weeks before the bacteria can be detected by standard culture methods. OpticFlock has been successfully trialled on over 150 commercial flocks in the UK and Switzerland and our next trials will be in the USA. We are working with the Munters Corporation to make OpticFlock widely available to farmers. The work has been supported by the BBSRC and the EPSRC and we have just completed a European-wide ANIHWA study on chicken welfare with colleagues from Switzerland, France and the Czech Republic.
I am currently finishing a new book on animal welfare called The Science of Animal Welfare: Understanding what animals want, to be published later this year by Oxford University Press.