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From Feed the Birds to Do Not Feed the Animals

This collaborative project looks at the roots of animal feeding, to establish the benefits and risk to humans, animals and the environment.

Last updated: 20 December 2023

About the project

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.

Do Not Feed The Animals logo

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.

Project details

Project title

From ‘Feed the Birds’ to ‘Do Not Feed the Animals’

Project active

2020 - 2024

Research theme


Find out more about Do Not Feed the Animals

Dr Andrew Kitchener - Principal Investigator - National Museums Scotland

Professor Naomi SykesUniversity of Exeter

Dr Stuart Black - University of Reading

Professor Garry Marvin - University of Roehampton

Dr Angela Cassidy - University of Exeter

Cooper, D.M., Yamaguchi, N., Macdonald, D.W., Patterson, B.D., Salkina, G.P., Yudin, V.G., Dugmore, A.J. and Kitchener, A.C. 2023. Getting to the Meat of It: The Effects of a Captive Diet upon the Skull Morphology of the Lion and Tiger. Animals 13 (23): 3616.

Cooper D.M., Yamaguchi N., Macdonald D.W., Nanova O.G., Yudin V.G., Dugmore A.J., Kitchener A.C. 2022. Phenotypic plasticity determines differences between the skulls of tigers from mainland Asia. Royal Society Open Science 9: 220697.

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.


Do Not Feed The Animals process of domestication chart


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.

Twitter: @Animal_Feeding

Email icon Dr Andrew Kitchener


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