Department: Pathobiology and Population Sciences
Research Centres: RVC Animal Welfare Science and Ethics
Siobhan is currently a Head of RVC Animal Welfare Science and Ethics group and Senior Lecturer in Animal Behaviour 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 RVC Animal Welfare Science and Ethics in 2014. She is currently a Council Member of Universities Federation of Animal Welfare and Trustee for the Humane Slaughter Association.
Siobhan's main areas of research encompass human-animal interactions, sensory perception and cognition, evidencing and measuring emotional states, social behaviour and 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.
Her current projects include
- “Envirobot: an autonomous roving platform for environmental, health and welfare monitoring of poultry.” Innovate UK (2019-2022)
- "Measuring and monitoring the welfare of hens in cage-free systems." Oaklands Farm Eggs (2019-2021)
- "Improving the welfare assessment of broiler chickens" Open Philanthropy\RSPCA (2018-2020)
- "Robochick: an automonous platform for data-collection in poultry sheds" Innovate UK (2018-2019)
Siobhan also currently supervises a number of Postgraduate students. Jade Hall is investigating whether posture and movement of birds can reflect personality and affective state. Carlos Rebelos is investigating how electrical stunning of turkeys ducks and geese can be improved. Lola Brookes is investigating improvements in the welfare of amphibians used in research through refinement and replacement. Justine Pearce is investigating artificial intelligence-enhanced continuous monitoring of individual locomotor dynamics to detect changes in poultry behaviour, health and welfare. Lola Brookes is investingating how to refine, reduce and replace the use of non-model amphibians in experiments on amphibian infectious diseases to adress mass extinction.
Siobhan’s past students include Liane Preshaw (graduating 2018) who investigated development and validation of an equine welfare assessment protocol and equine euthanasia decisions. Sandra Sanchis Mora (graduating 2017) who investigated how diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of neuropathic pain in dogs can be improved. Emma Buckland (graduating 2015) who investigated objective indicators and human assessment of canine emotional states along with factors contributing to variation in their expression. 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).
SANCHIS-MORA, S., CHANG, Y-M., ABEYESINGHE, S., FISHER, A., UPTON N, VOLK, H.A., PELLIGAND, L., (IN PRESS 2019) Pregabalin for the treatment of syringomyelia associated neuropathic pain in the dog, a randomised placebo-controlled double-blinded clinical trial. The Veterinary Journal.
MILROY, K., WHITING, M., & ABEYESINGHE, S. (2018) Reporting of suspected dog fighting by veterinary professionals. The Veterinary Record 183, 567. http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/vr.104753
SANCHIS-MORA, S., CHANG, Y-M., ABEYESINGHE, S., FISHER A., VOLK, H., & PELLIGAND, L. (2017) Development and initial validation of a sensory threshold examination protocol (STEP) for phenotyping canine pain syndromes. Veterinary Anaesthesia and Analgesia 44(3): 600-614 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.vaa.2016.09.004
HALL J., ABEYESINGHE, S.M., & DALEY, M. A. (2019) Interactions between personality expression and locomotor dynamics in helmeted guinea fowl (Numida meleagris. Integrative and Comparative Biology 59: E328-E328.
SANCHIS-MORA, S., PELLIGAN, L. THOMAS, C. L., VOLK, H. A., ABEYESINGHE, S. M. BRODBELT, D. C., CHURCH, D. B. THOMSON, P. C., McGREEVY, P. D., & O'NEILL D. G. (2016) Dogs attending primary-care practice in England with clinical signs suggestive of Chiari-like malformation/syringomyelia. The Veterinary record 179(17): 436.http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/vr.103651
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/10.7120/09627222.214.171.1247.
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/10.7120/096272126.96.36.199
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. https://doi.org/10.7120/096272812799129402 [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, welfare science and animal handling to undergraduates studying Animal Biology Behaviour Welfare and Ethics; Biological and Bio-veterinary Sciences; Veterinary Medicine and Veterinary Nursing and she supervises a number of undergraduate and MSc projects annually.
She is also an academic tutor for undergraduates studying science and for postgraduate students.
She has a postgraduate certificate in Veterinary Education (with distinction) 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 science.
Her activities have included running masterclasses on recording animal behaviour and understanding animal welfare and public speaking on chicken cognition and behaviour. She has also run an event on chicken biology and welfare and food labelling (Inside Chicken Run), first developed 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 which involved training chickens.
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'.
Our group is utilising various advances in technology, machine learning and our knowledge of animal behaviour to further improve welfare assessments for a wide range of species.
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 movements. Do animals do the same and can we objectively measure emotion in this way?
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.
We aim to refine the way that animals are used in research. Our projects focus on humane husbandry: how best to identification-mark mice, how frequently to clean rat cages, and how to minimise harmful effects from strong odours in the lab, given rodents' extremely well developed olfactory senses.
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.
Precision Livestock Farming (PLF) systems or as they were previously called “Integrated Management Systems” aim to manage livestock farming by continuous automated real time monitoring/controlling of production/reproduction, health and welfare of livestock and environmental impact (after Prof. Daniel Berckmans, KU Leuven, Belgium).
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. Our work also includes looking into ways wildlife is managed and control, including the asking questions on the the humaneness of different culling methods for 'pests'.