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New radio series explores animal welfare and animal rights

Christine Nicol, Professor of Animal Welfare

Press release issued: 7 December 2015

What is the moral status of animals? This question is one that can polarise and divide and will be addressed in a unique way by Christine Nicol, Professor of Animal Welfare at the University of Bristol as part a four-part series called Would You Eat an Alien?, on BBC Radio 4 starting this week [Wednesday 9 December].

Professor Nicol will interview animal welfare scientists, philosophers and wildlife biologists to explore the question of whether animals have the ability to feel and the potential consequences of accepting that some animals are conscious, sentient creatures. 

To help consider the subject comedian Jake Yapp, will take on the role of a sensitive spaceman who has crash-landed on a remote planet.  He doesn’t have much food to keep him going until he is rescued. Fortunately, the planet is teeming with edible alien life forms but which ones should he eat?  He wants to cause the minimum amount of pain and distress to the creatures, so he needs to know whether they can feel pain, and how he can minimise suffering. 

However, as he discusses his dilemmas with Professor Nicol other questions emerge. Will eating one alien cause distress to others? Do some types of alien creatures have such a degree of self-awareness that Jake needs to consider whether they are non-human persons? And how does his own growing fondness for one particular individual affect his ultimate decision?

Professor Nicol from Bristol’s School of Veterinary Sciences and presenter on the series, said: “In this series, the biology of the alien creatures is central, and the different concerns of sentient animals, socially bonded animals and animals with some awareness of their own future are exposed for debate.”

The first programme in the series, Pain or no pain, will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 at 9pm on Wednesday 9 December; followed by Emotional aliens on Wednesday 16 December; Living together on Wednesday 23 December and finally Alien persons on Wednesday 30 December.


Further information

About Professor Christine Nicol
Professor Christine Nicol obtained a degree in Zoology from the University of Oxford, and then completed a PhD on the welfare of laying hens housed in battery cages.  Her concern for the welfare of laying hens led to her involvement with many committees and working groups that oversaw the European ban on battery cages in 2012 and the development of a variety of alternative housing systems.

She continues to work with NGOs and industry to further improve welfare standards of hens and is also interested in the welfare of all domestic animal species, whether kept for food, research, entertainment or companionship.

In 2001, she was appointed Professor of Animal Welfare at the University of Bristol and jointly awarded the prince Laurent Foundation Prize for work on equine welfare.  In 2012 she was awarded the UFAW Medal for outstanding achievements in animal welfare science, and in 2015 she published her book The Behavioural Biology of Chickens

About Jake Yapp
Jake Yapp is a writer, composer and comedian, with writing and performing credits including Never Mind the Buzzcocks, Charlie Brooker’s Weekly Wipe on BBC2, and 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown.

As well as television, Jake spent three years working on the 6Music Breakfast Show, writing, performing and producing hourly songs and sketches. He also wrote and performed Pleased to Meet You for BBC Radio 4Extra, in which he played a little old lady called Dora Dale.

His online clip Radio 4 in 4 Minutes has attracted nearly 100,000 views, and, inexplicably, resulted in appearances on Feedback, Broadcasting House and the Now Show.

He’s a committed vegan of four years’ standing, and has reached a point where soy milk no longer tastes like wet cardboard. He hopes his egalitarian approach to animals will enable him to make the right decision in this programme.

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