Meet the speaker: Jo Hockenhull



Jo Hockenhull is an animal welfare researcher with a particular focus on the influence of human perceptions and attitudes on decision-making and welfare. She currently is Head of Research at The Donkey Sanctuary. Her research focuses on domestic species, primarily equids and farmed livestock.

Jo will speak at AWF 2024 Discussion Forum on 13th May on the session dedicated to animal behaviour.

What sparked your interest in the topic?

Animal behaviour has always fascinated me, and the more time I spent with different individual animals and different species of animals, the more my interest grew. However, it was the time I spent helping out at a local riding school when I was a teenager that really made me realise how often people ignore or misinterpret animal behaviour, usually to the detriment of the animal involved.

Why is this topic particularly relevant now?

This topic has always been highly relevant to animal welfare, but our understanding of animal behaviour is growing all the time. There is always more to learn and to incorporate into our interactions with animals. There is also growing societal concern about animal welfare and how we can improve it. Recognising and responding appropriately to animal behaviour is a big part of this.

What are the key issues of your topic?

Animals are only able to communicate with us through their behaviour but so often their behaviour is ignored or misinterpreted by the people who care for them. This can have significant implications for animal welfare, for example, if signs of pain are overlooked, or people punish specific behaviour they don't like.

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

The importance of paying attention to animal behaviour and really thinking about what it means.

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

Animal welfare research is increasingly focused on what makes a good life for animals, what gives them pleasure, rather than simply meeting their welfare needs. This is great to see. But in reality, we're still not very good at recognising when animals are telling us that something is wrong. Animal welfare depends on humans to make appropriate choices on the animal's behalf. A good understanding of animal behaviour is critical to make sure that these choices are the correct ones for the animals involved.

Following the Discussion Forum, what can we do to continue advancing animal welfare knowledge on this issue?

Keep a spotlight on behaviour - it is fundamentally important to animal welfare.