Discussion Forum 2023 - Meet the speakers: Hillary Pearce



Dr Hillary Pearce is a graduate of the Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine. While at MSU, she worked in the Animal Behaviour and Welfare Laboratory which ignited her love for animal welfare science. Hillary joined Hill’s in 2012. She is currently a resident in the American College of Animal Welfare and sits on the Working Animal subgroup for the One Welfare Phoenix project.

Q: What sparked your interest in the topic?

I have always been interested in the wellbeing of animals, even as a child. During my undergraduate pre-veterinary studies, I had the opportunity to work at my University's Animal Welfare Science laboratory. Being able to validate animal welfare ideals with evidence appealed to me, as it can be such a charged and emotional topic. Science lets us understand what is best from the animals' perspective rather than our own.

Q: Why is this topic particularly relevant now? 

As vets, we of course prioritise doing what is best for the animals we work with, but it is also important to consider what is important to the people who care for those animals and bring them to see us. Our clients are increasingly concerned about animal welfare and sustainability, and we are in a unique position to both make an impact in this area and to provide education.

Q: What are the key issues of your topic?

I will be discussing the wide spectrum of touchpoints that go into the perceived vs true sustainability of pet food, both upstream and downstream (farmed animals and the pets consuming the food). We'll touch on what makes the biggest impacts in terms of sustainability in pet food vs the most "visible" aspects, and why impactful change on a large scale takes time or risks making sustainability and welfare gains in one area at the expense of another.

Q: What are you hoping delegates will take away from your session?

I am hoping delegates will take away that sustainability and animal welfare in pet food manufacturing are complex, multifaceted issues and that some current trends in companion animal feeding are in opposition to true sustainability and One Welfare gains.

Q: Are there any statistics, research, new developments, or case studies that you can share with us about the topic?

The interest for welfare consideration from pet owners is there, as we demonstrated in this recent study The true sustainability impacts of pet food manufacturing are not always the most visible or talked about bits.

Q: What comes next?

Responsible pet food manufacturers like Hill's Pet Nutrition will continue to devote resources and energy to more and more sustainable production and practices, including investigating alternative protein sources, but consumers and pet owners need to have a full-spectrum understanding of what sustainability and animal welfare progress really is, and balance that with the benefits of evidence-based nutrition vs following pet food trends that may actually reduce progress in these key areas.

Join us at The Discussion Forum on 6th June and be part of the conversation!