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. The Wellcome Trust funded initiative brings together The Universities of Exeter, Roehampton, and Reading alongside the National Museums Scotland, with expertise in Zoology, Zooarchaeology, Geochemistry, Anthropology and Social Sciences.
Signs stating ‘Do not feed the animals’ are ubiquitous in zoos, national parks and urban spaces. They stress that uncontrolled feeding by people 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.
The project focusses in on cats, birdlife, and zoolife. The categories we assign to animals as pets, pests, zoolife and wildlife are considered in relation to animal feeding, and human-animal-environmental health. Particularly, the hypothesis that animal domestication itself was driven by the human penchant for animal feeding, and that this process is not just continuing but accelerating, will be tested.
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 stakeholders participate at all stages of the process to co-create the research questions and outcomes.