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“Only when humans understand the reason for animal life they will realize what they owe to them” – An Interview with Clive Phillips

This post gives some important lessons the Editor in Chief of Animals has learned from his work.

“We need to find whether there is a reason for animal life, and if so what it is, since this will help us to work out what we, as humans, owe to other creatures and how we should treat them”, states Clive Phillips, the Editor in Chief of Animals, when we ask him about his aspirations and long-term research goals.

Nowadays, the biggest concerns of Prof. Phillips are animal farming systems since, in his view, “many of the agricultural systems we keep animals in are not providing for an adequate standard of welfare”, which is the reason he became an animal welfare scientist. Nevertheless, he is also interested in benefiting farmers and consumers by improving farming systems, especially in Asian countries in which he works.

He considers the growing public opposition to current farming practices to be a major opportunity to progress research on farm animals. On the other hand, he sees major challenge in this field to be the vested interests in the current farming industry that can make unbiased research difficult.

Moreover, Prof. Phillips is convinced that, although entrepreneurial farmers will always seek opportunities for change, unless governments support researchers in helping them to find better systems of production nothing will change. This gives governments the responsibility to take a long-term view for the benefit of society when supporting animal research.

On another note, when asked about why most of the articles in Animals are about farm animals instead of companion animals, he affirms that this is because farm animals are far more numerous and for a larger part of the economy than companion animals.

He highlights that “The practices we subject farm animals to are much worse from a welfare perspective than any experienced by companion animals. We do not, usually, keep companion animals in small cages or transport them for long periods in large numbers with no more room to move than the space they physically occupy and we do not slaughter them for meat”.

As for the most important lesson he learned from wildlife, he told us that the greatest liberty afforded to animals is being free to roam and he recalls that “we have seen a dramatic intensification of farm animal production in the last 50 years, in Europe and North America at first and now in developing countries”.

Moreover, he warns that society is awakening to the harsh realities of the impact on animal welfare worldwide, which has a major impact on improving animal welfare, together with legally-enforced standards.

About Animals, the journal he leads, he notes that it “has provided an opportunity to develop a research forum where scientists can openly publish their work for the benefit of the community”, since existing journals in animal welfare are only available to interested parties by subscription.

In addition, he believes that indexing in Web of Science will further increase the number of submissions, since many institutions require their staff to submit to journals with an impact factor, even though it does not necessarily increase readership.

Currently, Prof. Phillips’ major project concerns training and research with stakeholders in livestock industries in China. He explains that they are a team of about 20 researchers at the Centre for Animal Welfare and Ethics primarily working on aspects of livestock management. This is alongside other major projects on the management of dogs and cats in a nearby RSPCA shelter. He is also actively involved in researching the welfare of livestock during long distance transport, particularly by ship.

Finally, he takes inspiration from older scientists that have stood up for the good treatment of animals, the pioneers of animal welfare science; and also, from animals that can be helped by animal welfare science and developing an ethical approach to animal welfare.

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2 Comments

  1. Prof. Clive Phillips is really a great scientist, having pain in his heart for animals. I am greatly inspired by his work in this special area of animal welfare. I learned a lot from his ideas and tried to join his team, but unfortunately not successful.
    Sir! Wishing you best of luck and welcome to Beef Cattle Improvement Research Center, Northwest Agriculture and Forestry University, Yangling, China

  2. I have just read the Book Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari and he describes the state of affaires in Part 1, the Anthropcene. He discusses and explains how humans regard and ignore the subjective feelings of animals and the relationship to the history and future of mans relationships with animals, This is the key problem. It is the key problem examplified by how the Australians kill kangaroos ignoring completely the feelings of the animals.. No wonder they are suffering drought and floods and forest fires. Nature’s feedback is the erosion of Auustraliia and the fores and floods.

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