Understanding the Reasons for Animal Life—Clive Phillips Interview

Here, in this Clive Phillips interview (Editor-in-Chief of Animals), we explore some of the main insights of his research and work as EiC.

Clive Phillips interview

“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.

Growing public opposition to farming practices

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.

Importance of farm animals

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 represent 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”.

Main lessons from studying animals

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.

Wrapping up the Clive Phillips interview

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.

We are very grateful to Clive Phillips for taking the time to answer our questions and for his work. If you’re interested in submitting or reading work from Animals, see the journal homepage.

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