Lindsay Matthews Lindsay Matthews CREDIT: University of Waikato

Cafe Scientifique to focus on what makes animals happy

Tuesday 30 August 2011, 12:15PM
By University of Waikato


Animal welfare issues and concerns are heavily influenced by what people think animals need. Many people think that good welfare is synonymous with happiness, and that this can be achieved if animals are permitted to behave naturally and move about without too much constraint.

But what does a scientific assessment of welfare have to say about an animal’s needs? A good way to find out is to ask the animals directly. In September’s Hamilton Cafe Scientifique animal welfare and behaviour expert Dr Lindsay Matthews will describe several different ways that we can ‘ask’ animals to give their own views on what they want and do not want, and how this information can be used to provide them with a ‘life worth living’.

Dr Matthews’ interest in the behaviour and welfare of animals began during his formative years on his parent’s dairy and beef cattle farm. He graduated from Auckland University with a BSc in Zoology and Psychology, and from the University of Waikato with a First Class Masters degree (MSocSc) and a DPhil in Domestic Animal Behaviour. He is currently a senior scientist at AgResearch in New Zealand. His university education and research career have spanned the twin disciplines of animal psychology and biology, which have provided a unique basis for uncovering insights into the minds of animals.

His work has been directed at answering such questions as: how can we determine what an animal really, really wants; how can we determine the risk of thermal stress to livestock; how can we overcome learned food aversions (‘bait shyness’) in pest species and also prevent native animals from eating baits; and development of pest exclusion technologies for protecting wildlife in sanctuaries.

In addition, Dr Matthews is an acknowledged thought leader in the field with over 190 articles in refereed journals, book chapters and refereed conference abstracts and over 120 other publications. He has been awarded a Royal Society Medal for services to science and society in the areas of animal welfare and environment. Dr Matthews is also an Alexander von Humbolt Fellow and has served on international research and editorial committees (eg Welfare Quality Science Board) and national animal welfare bodies.

Hamilton’s Cafe Scientifique is to be held Tuesday September 6, 7.30pm at Cafe Francais.