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Siobhan Abeyesinghe

Name: Dr Siobhan Abeyesinghe
BSc (Hons) MSc PhD
Siobhan Abeyesinghe
Post: Lecturer in Animal Behaviour and Welfare
Department: Production and Population Health
Email: sabeyesinghe@rvc.ac.uk
Tel: +44 (0)1707 66 6947
Address: Centre for Animal Welfare
The Royal Veterinary College
Hawkshead Lane
North Mymms
Herts AL9 7TA
Research Group(s):

Siobhan is currently a Lecturer within the Centre for Animal Welfare. She specialises in social behaviour, learning and cognition, behavioural approaches to assessing sensory capacities and animal welfare.


Siobhan graduated from University of Newcastle in 1994 with a degree in Animal Science. She then went on to complete an MSc in Applied Animal Behaviour and Welfare at University of Edinburgh (1995) culminating in a research project at the Macaulay Institute on the welfare of red deer at lairage.

Following her PhD work on poultry behaviour and welfare with Professor Christine Nicol at University of Bristol and Professor Christopher Wathes, then of Silsoe Research Institute (2000) she joined Professor Wathes' research group as a postdoctoral researcher in poultry cognition and demonstrated that hens can show self-control.

In 2005 she joined the Royal Veterinary College to form the Centre for Animal Welfare with a small team of other scientists and in 2008 was appointed as an RCUK Fellow in Animal Behaviour and Welfare. She is also the UFAW Link Representative at the college.


Siobhan's main areas of research interest currently lie within the areas of human-animal interactions, social behaviour and cognition and welfare assessment; encompassing primarily farm and companion animal species.

In addition to collaborative work on canine welfare issues and avian vision, she recently led a BBSRC Animal Welfare Initiative project investigating the effects of the artificial physical environments in which pigs and poultry are routinely kept on their social behaviour, stress and cognition and is pursuing further work on social behaviour in poultry. She also recently supervised work on Adolescent attitudes to farm animal welfare and animal welfare education (PhD studentship- Dr Jen Jamieson) in collaboration with Rev Prof Michael Reiss at Institute of Education, Prof Christopher Wathes and the RSPCA.

Other current projects Siobhan supervises include:

  • Canine positive affect: indicators owner assessments and effects of a chronic neuropathic condition (PhD Studentship - Emma Buckland www.rvc.ac.uk/Staff/elbuckland.cfm) in collaboration with Drs Holger Volk and Charlotte Burn at RVC.
  • Multidisciplinary approach for improving diagnosis and treatment of spontaneous canine neuropathic pain (PhD Studentship Sandra Sanchis-Mora www.rvc.ac.uk/Staff/ssanchismora.cfm) in collaboration with Drs Ludovic Peligand and Holger Volk at RVC, case sponsored by Tranpharmation
  • Quality of Life Assessment in Equids (PhD studentship- Liane Crowther www.rvc.ac.uk/Staff/lcrowther.cfm) in collaboration with Dr Charlotte Burn and Prof Christopher Wathes at RVC.



Siobhan currently teaches Animal Behaviour and welfare to undergraduates studying veterinary medicine (BVetMed, Graduate & Transfer and Gateway courses), Veterinary Nursing and Bio-veterinary sciences (module on Animal Behaviour and Welfare). She is responsible for directing the Year 1-2 research project conducted by the BVetMed students and teaches animal handling on this course. She is also an academic tutor for veterinary nursing students and a postgraduate tutor. Siobhan is currently supervising three PhD students and supervises a number of undergraduate and MSc projects annually and is involved in various forms of course assessment at undergraduate and postgraduate level.


Siobhan is working closely with clinicians to further application of research and research findings to clinical practice.

Selected Publications

BUCKLAND, E.L., VOLK, H.A., BURN, C.C & ABEYESINGHE, S. M., (In Press 2014) Owner perceptions of companion dog expressions of positive emotional states and the contexts in which they occur. Animal Welfare.

BUCKLAND, E.L., CORR, S., ABEYESINGHE, S. M., & WATHES, C. M. (2014) Prioritisation of companion dog welfare issues using expert consensus. Animal Welfare 23 (1): 39-46. http://dx.doi.org/10.7120/09627286.23.1.039

ABEYESINGHE, S. M., DREWE, J. A., ASHER, L., WATHES, C. M. & COLLINS, L. M. (2013). Do hens have friends? Applied Animal Behaviour Science 143, 61-66. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2012.12.003 [Article also featured in Veterinary Record 2013, 172: 48]. 

BUCKLAND, E.L., WHITING, M. C., ABEYESINGHE, S. M., ASHER, L., CORR, S. & WATHES, C. M. (2013) A survey of stakeholders' opinions on the priority issues affecting the welfare of companion dogs in Great Britain. Animal Welfare 22, 239-253. dx.doi.org/10.7120/09627286.22.2.239

RUTHERFORD, L., WESSMANN, A., RUSBRIDGE, C., McGONNELL, l.M., ABEYESINGHE, S., BURN, C. & VOLK, H. A. (2012). Questionnaire-based behaviour analysis of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels with neuropathic pain due to Chiari-like malformation and syringomyelia. The Veterinary Journal 194, 294-298. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tvjl.2012.05.018

JAMIESON, J., REISS, M. J., ALLEN, D., ASHER L., PARKER, M. O., WATHES, C. M. & ABEYESINGHE, S. M. (2013). Adolescents care but dont feel responsible for farm animal welfare. Society and Animals 21(3): 1-27. available online dx.doi.org/10.1163/15685306-12341283

JAMIESON, J., REISS, M. J., ALLEN, D., ASHER L., WATHES, C. M. & ABEYESINGHE, S. M. (2012). Measuring the success of a farm animal welfare education event. Animal Welfare 21: 65-75. paper [Article also featured in Veterinary Record 2012, 170:263].

O'CONNOR, E. A., PARKER, M.O., DAVEY, E. L., GRIST, H., OWEN, R. C., SZLADOVITS, B., DEMMERS, T. G., WATHES, C. M., & ABEYESINGHE, S. M. (2011) The effect of low light and high noise on behavioural activity, physiological indicators of stress and production in laying hens. British Poultry Science 52: 666-674. dx.doi.org/10.1080/00071668.2011.639342

O'CONNOR, E. A., SAUNDERS, J. E., GRIST, H., McLEMAN, M. A., WATHES, C. M., & ABEYESINGHE, S. M. (2011). The relationship between the comb and social behaviour in laying hens. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 135: 293-299. doi:10.1016/j.applanim.2011.09.011

ASHER, L. BUCKLAND, E. L., PHYLACTOPOULOS, C. I., WHITING, M. C., ABEYESINGHE, S. M. & WATHES, C. M. (2011). Estimation and demographics of the UK owned dog population. BMC Veterinary Research 7: 74. dx.doi.org/10.1186/1746-6148-7-74

O'CONNOR, E. A., PARKER, M. O., McLEMAN, M. A., DEMMERS, T. G., LOWE, J. C., CUI, L., DAVEY, E. L., OWEN, R. C., WATHES, C. M., & ABEYESINGHE, S. M. (2010). The impact of chronic environmental stressors on growing pigs, Sus Scrofa (Part 1): stress physiology, production and play behaviour. Animal 4: 1899-1909. http://dx.doi.org/doi:10.1017/S1751731110001072 

PARKER, M. O., O'CONNOR, E. A., McLEMAN, M. A., DEMMERS, T. G., LOWE, J. C., OWEN, R. C., DAVEY, E. L., WATHES, C. M. & ABEYESINGHE, S. M. (2010). The impact of chronic environmental stressors on growing pigs, Sus Scrofa (Part 2): social behaviour. Animal 4:1910-1921. http://dx.doi.org/doi:10.1017/S1751731110001084

GOVER, N., JARVIS, J. R., ABEYESINGHE, S. M. & WATHES, C. M. (2009) Stimulus luminance and the spatial acuity of domestic fowl (Gallus g. domesticus). Vision Research, 49(23): 2747-2753. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.visres.2009.08.011

ABEYESINGHE, S. M., McLEMAN, M. A., OWEN, R. C., McMAHON C. E. & WATHES, C. M. (2009). Investigating social discrimination of group members by laying hens. Behavioural Processes 81:1-13. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.beproc.2008.11.017

JARVIS, J. R., ABEYESINGHE, S. M., McMAHON C. E. & WATHES, C. M. (2009). Measuring and modelling the spatial contrast sensitivity of the domestic fowl (Gallus g. domesticus). Vision Research. 49:1448-1454. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.visres.2009.02.019

MCKEEGAN, D. E., ABEYESINGHE, S. M., MCLEMAN, M. A., LOWE, J. C., DEMMERS, T. G., WHITE, R. P., KRANEN, R. W., VAN BEMMEL, H., LANKHAAR, J. A. & WATHES, C. M. (2007) Controlled atmosphere stunning of broiler chickens. II. Effects on behaviour, physiology and meat quality in a commercial processing plant. British Poultry Science 48: 430-442. PubMed ID 17701496 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00071660701543097

ABEYESINGHE, S. M., MCKEEGAN, D. E., MCLEMAN, M. A., LOWE, J. C., DEMMERS, T. G., WHITE, R. P., KRANEN, R. W., VAN BEMMEL, H., LANKHAAR, J. A. & WATHES, C. M. (2007) Controlled atmosphere stunning of broiler chickens. I. Effects on behaviour, physiology and meat quality in a pilot scale system at a processing plant. British Poultry Science 48: 406-423. PubMed ID 17701494. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00071660701543089

LOWE, J., ABEYESINGHE, S.M, DEMMERS, T.G.M., WATHES, C.M. & MCKEEGAN, D.E.F. (2007). A novel telemetric logging system for recording physiological signals in unrestrained animals. Computers and Electronics in Agriculture 57: 74-79. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.compag.2007.02.003

ABEYESINGHE, S. M., NICOL, C. J., HARTNELL S.J. & WATHES, C. M., (2005). Can domestic fowl, Gallus gallus domesticus, show self-control? Animal Behaviour 70: 1-11. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2004.10.011

MACCALUIM, J. M., ABEYESINGHE, S. M. & WATHES, C. M., (2003). A continuous choice assessment of the domestic fowl’s aversion to concurrent transport stressors. Animal Welfare 12: 95-107.paper

ABEYESINGHE, S. M., NICOL, C. J., WATHES, C. M. & RANDALL, J. M. (2001). Development of a raceway method to assess aversion of domestic fowl to concurrent stressors. Behavioural Processes 56: 175-194. PubMed ID 11738510. paper

ABEYESINGHE, S. M., WATHES, C. M., NICOL, C. J. & RANDALL, J. M. (2001). The aversion of broiler chickens to concurrent vibrational and thermal stressors. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 73: 199-215. PubMed ID 11376838 paper

ABEYESINGHE, S. M. & GODDARD, P. J. (1998). The preferences and behaviour of farmed red deer (Cervus elaphus) in the presence of other farmed species. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 56: 59-69. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0168-1591(97)00079-8

ABEYESINGHE, S. M. , GODDARD, P. J. & COCKRAM, M. S. (1997). The behavioural and physiological responses of farmed red deer (Cervus elaphus) penned adjacent to other species in simulated abattoir lairage. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 55: 163-175. paper

Outreach Activities

Siobhan is also involved in public engagement activities, particularly engaging school children in animal welfare and behaviour.

Her activities have included running an event on chicken biology and welfare and food labelling (Inside Chicken Run). This was first run as part of National Science Week 2009, sponsored by RCUK but has since been run at RVC several times very successfully, as well as by invitation at celebrity Jimmy Doherty's Science Festival during National Science week 2010. Siobhan and her student Jen Jamieson were runners up in the national BBSRC Social Innovator of the Year 2011 competition for this work. 

Siobhan was also recently involved in the 2010 BBC Scotland  TV programme 'The Private Life of Chickens' and a primary school Royal Society Partnership Project (2011) to inspire and engage the future generation of scientists using animal behaviour.

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