A Surplus of Giraffes

As a welfare scientist, it’s remiss of me not to discuss the fate of Marius the giraffe.

Copenhagen zoo killed one of their giraffes, dissected it in public, then fed it to their lions.

Or, if you prefer a second interpretation: Copenhagen zoo, who believe that they should keep their animals as naturally as possible, and allow them to fulfil their natural behaviours such as mating, getting pregnant, giving birth, etc. decided to control their breeding population by removing an animal with replicated genes, killing him humanely, furthering the education of the public, and then provide the lions a little bit of enrichment to ensure the death wasn’t needless.

It is undoubtedly a complicated and emotive issue.

I was recently directed towards the Animal Ethics Matrix which, once registered, gives you a short test to determine your philosophy with regards to animals. I am strongly utilitarian in my view of animal welfare, as I am in my view of human welfare, politics, life and everything else. I was raised a Trekkie, after all, and the needs of the many always outweigh the needs of the few. With this caveat, I would like to dissect this ethical dilemma from my utilitarian, animal behaviour scientist viewpoint. You need not agree with me, because our own ethics are all different, but let me know if you think I’m obviously wrong in some respects…

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If Everybody Thought the Same

As a researcher with an interest in personality, I have been accused of anthropomorphising animals in the past. I argue that personality is an outcome of predictable behaviour patterns and statistical distributions. To me this is a perfectly formed argument that has emerged from years of PhD work, but PhDs Read more…

Conferences and Questions

Wednesday was the International Society for Applied Ethology‘s UK regional conference. We tend to do these every other year and it was my second regional conference. I absolutely love this society. It’s incredibly friendly and supportive. In fact the worst questions at this conference were asked by me, as one Read more…

Orcas at the Olympics

The Sochi Winter Olympics have been troubling me for some time now. They begin on the 7th February and continue through to the 23rd of February. I haven’t decided if I will watch them or not. I usually very much enjoy the Winter Olympics (figure skating and the ski jump Read more…

Personalities – Part One

One of my all time favourite topics is that of animal personality. In fact my PhD was centred around animal personality, using some nifty new technology to explore the phenomenon. Most of my papers are about how personality affects the lives of cows.

Don’t laugh. That’s genuinely what my PhD is in.

There are actually plenty of production and welfare reasons to study this in cattle, but today I want to talk to you about one of the basic concepts of personality.

Let’s Talk Science

You’ve heard people talk about personality traits or dimensions (I’ll use traits for the rest of this article), but what do you know about personality traits? I’m going to give you a very complicated sciency sounding sentence here, and by the end of this article, I think you’ll understand it.

Are you ready?

Are you sure?

Personality traits are a statistical construct based on the behavioural variation displayed number of individuals sampled.

Let me explain . . .

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