Animal behaviour, welfare and ethics research

Massey University has expertise in practical, science-based and ethical advice, education and solutions to animal welfare and behaviour problems and for bioethical analysis and education.

We promote the humane and responsible care of animals, both in the wild and in captivity through scientific research and education. We also work on ethical principles to guide human-animal interactions and biotechnology.

Research expertise

Animal welfare

We promote the humane and responsible care of animals through scientific research and education. This work goes across a broad range of animals from lifestock to pets, feral animals and wildlife – both living in the wild and in captivity. We conduct bioethical analysis, develop methodology for welfare assessment and develop bioethical principles to guide human-animal interactions.


Companion and production animal behaviour

Research into factors impacting behaviours of companion and production animals such as cattle and sheep, and developing techniques and strategies to mitigate problem behaviour.


Development of animal alternatives for research

We promote the development and application of the Three Rs (reduction, refinement, and replacement) in research, teaching and testing and are working on the development of computerised substitutes for animals used in veterinary training.


Domestic animal welfare science

Investigations into the welfare of domestic animals – both captive and feral.

This includes the handling of livestock and management of wild horses.


Ethical animal treatment

The assessment of the bioethical acceptability of different management practices.

We examine the ethics of animal use in research, teaching and testing, make ethical appraisals of new biotechnologies and analyse the ethical dimensions of welfare problems and technological developments.


Human-wildlife behaviour

Massey University researchers are investigating the impact of capture, captivity and handling, evolution, human contact, rehabilitation and relocation on the behavioural patterns, survival, reproduction rates and ongoing welfare of wildlife, with a focus on New Zealand native wildlife.


Husbandry and animal welfare

The assessment of how different husbandry systems affect animal welfare. This includes survival of infant animals, welfare of livestock during slaughter and relieving lameness.


Pain and stress alleviation and endrocrinology

Our research expertise is in animal responses to stress across a broad range of vertebrate animals, with a focus on non-invasive methods.

This includes expertise in endocrinology – individual variation in corticosterone and cortisol stress responses, endocrine and behavioural responses to stressors.


Veterinary social work

The four areas of veterinary social work are: grief and loss, animal-assisted interactions, links between human and animal violence, and compassion fatigue management. Our research focuses on developing a greater understanding of how social work knowledge can contribute to the practices of veterinary and/or animal welfare professionals, and enable them to better manage adverse events (eg, animal cruelty and child abuse), interact with difficult clients, and work effectively in teams to reduce burnout and compassion fatigue.


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Departments and staff

Find out more about the departments and staff involved in animal welfare and behaviour research at Massey.

Animal expertise

Massey University scientists also have expertise across some key animal types. Find out more about study options, research, facilities, services or resources to do with these animals.