Last updated: 11 August 2022
This UK-wide collaboration takes a deep-time, cross-cultural perspective on the roots of animal feeding, to establish the benefits and risk to humans, animals, and the environment. This project is funded by the Wellcome Trust and brings together the universities of Exeter, Roehampton, and Reading alongside National Museums Scotland, with expertise in zoology, zooarchaeology, geochemistry, anthropology and social sciences.
Signs stating ‘Do not feed the animals’ are commonly seen in zoos, national parks and urban spaces. Their purpose is to deter uncontrolled feeding by people, which can affect animal health, alter wild animal behaviour and create public hygiene and nuisance issues. However, humans appear to have a deep-seated proclivity to feed animals, which can be traced back over millennia.
From ‘Feed the Birds’ to ‘Do Not Feed the Animals’
2020 - 2024
By focussing on cats, foxes, birds and zoo animals, this project examines the categories that we assign to animals as pets, pests, zoolife and wildlife, and how they are considered in relation to animal feeding, and human-animal-environmental health. In particular, we will explore whether the hypothesis that animal domestication was driven by a human penchant for animal feeding, and that this process is not just continuing but accelerating.
The research takes a long view, tracing these processes in Britain from ancient to modern times. In addition, the project has adopted an ‘engaged research’ approach so that multiple stakeholders will participate at all stages of the process to co-create the research questions and outcomes.