Hartpury University lecturer Vicky Melfi has brought out a thought-provoking new book about human-animal interactions, including the relationships between people and their pets and farmers and their livestock.
Vicky, Principal Lecturer in Human-Animal Interaction at Hartpury, has published ‘Anthrozoology: Human-Animal Interactions in Domesticated and Wild Animals’ in collaboration with Geoff Hosey, Honorary Professor and former Principal Lecturer in Biology at the University of Bolton.
Each chapter, written by an expert in each respective field, focuses on a different context in which human-animal interactions occur, balancing the costs and benefits to both people and animals of these interactions; including the benefits of companion animals such as dogs, how the relationship between farmers and their animals can affect productivity, and whether zoos have a place in the 21st century.
“Anthrozoology – the study of human-animal interactions – has experienced substantial growth in the past 20 years,” said Vicky, who has gained almost 30 years’ experience working professionally in animal welfare and conservation in the UK, Ireland and Australia.
“Geoff and I believed it was timely to synthesize what we know from empirical evidence about our relationships with domesticated and wild animals.
“Anthrozoology is of growing importance to everyone! Within academia, it is applicable to animal management and handling, animal welfare and applied ethology courses, and also for people within psychology, anthropology and human geography at both the undergraduate and postgraduate level.
“We hope the book will be of interest to students, researchers and animal managers across the whole spectrum of human-animal interactions, as well as members of the general public with an interest in the welfare of animals and their place in society.”
Vicky founded a research, conservation and education programme – Selamatkan Yaki – focused on protecting Sulawesi crested black macaques in Indonesia.
She said humans should carefully consider how their actions affect the animal kingdom and the environment, directly and indirectly, and whether they could do more to protect them.
“As humans, we need to recognise that the interactions we have with animals impact on their welfare and their quality of life,” she said.
“If we use animals to perform certain jobs for us in society, we should consider whether those animals are best suited to those particular roles.
“For instance, some dogs will absolutely love being stroked and cuddled by the residents in nursing and care homes, whereas others will find the attention all too much. We need to remember that animals are as individual as we are.
“We must also decide whether the jobs we ask animals to perform for us are essential and, if we decide that they are, ensure that the animals doing those jobs have a really good life.”
Vicky added: “Most people tend to think only of the direct interaction we have with animals – like hugging, feeding or taking a dog for a walk – but indirectly there is no place on earth we haven’t had an impact and where our activities are not effecting the lives of animals.
“We are killing animals hand over fist because we’ve polluted waterways, there are plastics in the ocean, and global warming has meant that disease spread is occurring at unprecedented levels, all of which are influencing animals in across the globe in places with and without people.
“Don’t get me wrong, we all juggle many commitments and have to make a judgement call about whether considering the lives of animals is on the list of priorities.
“If it is, and it is for me, we can sign up to doing something, whether we’re pressed by finance or time, we can all do something to make a difference.”
Picture: Vicky Melfi with her new book ‘Anthrozoology: Human-Animal Interactions in Domesticated and Wild Animals’ at Hartpury