Department: Production and Population Health
Research Centres: RVC Animal Welfare Science and Ethics
Siobhan is currently a Head of RVC Animal Welfare Science and Ethics group and Lecturer in Animal Behvaiour and Welfare Science . 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 BSc in Animal Science and went on to complete an MSc in Applied Animal Behaviour and Welfare at University of Edinburgh (1995).
Siobhan’s PhD (University of Bristol, 2000), supervised by Prof Christine Nicol (University of Bristol) and Prof Christopher Wathes (Silsoe Research Institute) involved development of a common currency welfare assessment for exposure to concurrent stressors, using transport of poultry as a model. Siobhan subsequently joined Professor Wathes' research group as a postdoctoral researcher in poultry cognition, demonstrating that hens can show self-control and receiving the Worshipful Company of Poulters' 2002 Poulters' Prize for a significant contribution to the poultry industry by a young scientist.
In 2005 she joined the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) as a postdoctoral researcher and, via an RCUK Fellowship (2008), was appointed to an RVC lectureship in Animal Behaviour and Welfare Science in 2012. Siobhan was appointed Head of Group in 2014 and is currently also the UFAW Link Representative at the RVC.
Siobhan's main areas of research encompass human-animal interactions, social behaviour, sensory perception and cognition, evidencing and measuring emotional states, development and application of welfare assessment. Her work focusses primarily on farm and companion animal species and utilises a range of disciplines including behaviour, physiology and social sciences.
Siobhan supervises a number of PhD students. Emma Buckland has been investigating objective indicators and human assessment of canine emotional states along with factors contributing to variation in their expression. Sandra Sanchis Mora (primary supervisor Ludovic Pelligand) is investigating how diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of neuropathic pain in dogs can be improved. Jade Hall (primary supervisor Monica Daley) is investigating whether posture and movement of birds can reflect personality and affective state. Liane Crowther (primary supervisor Charlotte Burn) is developing a quality of life assessment for horses.
Siobhan’s past students include Jen Jamieson (graduating 2013) who investigated knowledge attitudes and (consumer relevant) behaviour of adolescents with respect to farm animal welfare. Jen identified hitherto unrecognised key barriers to behaviour change essential to address as part of educational strategies. Her work was consulted for the FAWC Report on Education, Communication and Knowledge Application in Relation to Farm Animal Welfare (Dec 2011). Nick Gover (graduating 2013) investigated spatial and colour vision in chickens and how their visual abilities are affected by dim light (primary supervisor John Jarvis). Heather Morris (graduating 2007) investigated environmental management of injurious pecking in turkeys.
Siobhan’s previous research has investigated social behaviour and cognition in pigs and poultry (BBSRC Animal Welfare Initiative); visual perception in hens (BBSRC Animal Welfare Initiative); prioritisation of canine welfare issues (RSPCA); capacity of chickens to rationally discriminate future outcomes of choice using the self-control paradigm (BBSRC); gas stunning of poultry (Defra); development of a common currency welfare assessment for exposure to concurrent stressors (BBSRC); and welfare of deer during lairage and transport (SOAEFD).
JAMIESON, J., REISS, M. J., ALLEN, D., ASHER L., PARKER, M. O., WATHES, C. M. & ABEYESINGHE, S. M. (2015). Adolescents care but dont feel responsible for farm animal welfare. Society and Animals 23(3): 269-297. dx.doi.org/10.1163/15685306-12341283
BUCKLAND, E.L., VOLK, H.A., BURN, C.C & ABEYESINGHE, S. M., (2014) Owner perceptions of companion dog expressions of positive emotional states and the contexts in which they occur. Animal Welfare 23 (3): 287-296 http://dx.doi.org/10.7120/096272188.8.131.527.
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/10.7120/096272184.108.40.206
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., 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
Siobhan currently teaches animal behaviour and welfare science to undergraduates studying Bio-veterinary Sciences (Year 3 module on Animal Behaviour and Welfare), Veterinary Medicine and Veterinary Nursing.
Siobhan is leader of the Science of Animal Welfare module of the new BSc in Biological Sciences (Animal Behaviour, Welfare and Ethics).
She is currently director for the BVetMed pre-clinical research report and teaches BVetMed animal handling. She is also an academic tutor for veterinary nursing students and a postgraduate tutor. Siobhan supervises a number of undergraduate and MSc projects annually.
She has a postgraduate certificate in Veterinary Education and is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.
Siobhan is working closely with clinicians to further application of research and research findings to clinical practice.
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. She was also central to a primary school Royal Society Partnership Project (2011) to inspire and engage the future generation of scientists using animal behaviour.
In 2013 Siobhan presented her research ‘Do hens have friends’ at the Ignoble Awards Tour. She has been interviewed about chicken cognition on BBC World News (2013) and was involved in the 2010 BBC Scotland TV programme 'The Private Life of Chickens'.
An innovative approach to assessing animal emotional states which underpin animal welfare. Although we often consider facial expression the best indicator of emotion, humans convey information about their personalities and emotional states in their body posture and movement. Do animals do the same and can we objectively measure emotion in this way?
Interpreting any animal's emotion correctly is key to safeguarding its welfare - and sometimes even our own welfare. Dogs are renowned for their 'human-like' expressiveness, but science can reveal which of their behavioural signals reliably discriminate between emotions such as anxiety versus pleasure, and which ones may be misleading.
Pigs and poultry evolved to live in natural habitats which are very different to the environments in which they are frequently housed for farming. This body of work is made possible with our state of the art environmental control research facilities and engineering expertise. It focuses on the impact of artificial environmental husbandry factors on welfare, production and on impact on the external environment, which is critical for sustainability.
Welfare is about more than physical health, so we develop and test welfare assessment protocols to facilitate appropriate treatment and prioritisation of equine welfare issues. Our research has covered horses in England, including geriatric and rescue horses, as well as donkeys and mules in developing countries.
At the Queen Mother Hospital for Animals we are conducting a study using sensory testing to establish if it could be a useful tool in the diagnosis and treatment of Nep in animals. This is a non-invasive and interactive study for both pets and their owners.
People: Siobhan Abeyesinghe
Chickens are the world's most numerous captive species. This body of research aims to understand the - often complex - cognitive and perceptual abilities of chickens and learn more about their social lives by effectively asking them questions . This is crucial to discovering how husbandry and management can impact on chicken welfare as well as informing legislation and societal acceptability of welfare standards.
People: Siobhan Abeyesinghe
The needs and views of Society dictate how scientific findings are implemented and what issues are investigated scientifically. Human attitudes towards animals can impact on their treatment and consideration as well as standards of welfare maintained.
We currently have a number of different projects investigating the welfare of a range of species during stunning, slaughter (with and without stunning) & euthanasia.
We run various projects on wild animals, ranging from great apes to sunbears. These include projects that form part of the MScs in Wild Animal Biology and Health.