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Professor Toby Knowles

Professor Toby Knowles

Professor Toby Knowles
BSc(Agric), MSc, PhD(Cantab), CStat, CBiol, CSci, FRSB, FHEA

Professor of Farming and Food Science

Area of research

Animal Welfare and Sustainable Production Systems

Dolberry Building,
Langford, Bristol BS40 5DU
(See a map)

+44 (0) 117 928 9214


My research is very applied, and is usually carried out in collaboration with farmers and/or the agricultural industries, with the aim of developing improved, welfare friendly, sustainable methods of farming. As a principle investigator I have held a large number of major grants (> £100,000) covering a wide range of projects.




These have included improving the housing systems and handling of laying hens, investigations into improving transport conditions for equidae, sheep, cattle, pigs and both laying hens and broiler (meat) chickens. The figure is from some of my work in Chile, looking at stocking densities in cattle transported by road.

I've also held major grants which have investigated the control of lameness in dairy cattle, the effects of differences in water quality on farmed trout, the control of mastitis in dairy cattle, the extent and causes of lameness in broiler chickens and the extent and causes of fin damage in farmed trout. The figure below shows one of the measurement scales we developed to assess the extent of fin erosion in farmed rainbow trout.




Other areas of investigation and interest have included surveys to assess levels of contaminants within the food chain in fish, wild collected food and in vegetables and research into campylobacter infection in broiler flocks. I’ve also had an interest in developing more humane methods of slaughter and have worked with colleagues to develop instantaneous electrical stun/kill systems for farmed fish which are now widely used throughout the UK where previously fish were left to die slowly over a matter of minutes in air or in an ice slurry. I’ve long held an interest in cetaceans and my research into the ineffectiveness of the Norwegian grenade harpoon, based on data collected from the Norwegian minke whale hunt, was adopted and presented at the annual International Whaling Commission meeting by the British government delegation. The figure below summarises the main findings of the work and shows the small target area of the whale which needs to be struck to begin to be sure of a humane kill.

Quantifying the ineffectiveness of the Norwegian harpoon grenade

The following is a list of current research projects:-

  • Humane slaughter of farmed fish
  • Fitness to travel of end-of-lay hens
  • Anaesthesia and analgesia techniques applicable to fish
  • Investigation of rearing environment and its association with feather pecking in free-range pullets
  • A review of equine welfare in England & Wales
  • The impact of keel bone fractures on the welfare of laying hens
  • Evaluation of the sustainability of UK sheep transport and marketing systems


My latest research project aims to evaluate the effects that the different types of transport and marketing systems used for sheep in the UK have on the animals. It also aims to quantify the extent to which the different systems are in operation within the UK and using a life cycle analysis approa ch, investigate the sustainability of the systems.

I have published over 100 articles in refereed scientific journals which cover the work described above and more. Many of the references to my work can be found using the links within this micro site, however, a search of Google Scholar using 'Knowles TG' will provide a fuller list with links to the source publications, some of which are in the public domain.



Further information about Professor Toby Knowles can be found here.


BSc Veterinary and Bioveterinary Science
MSc Global Wildlife and Health Conservation

Toby was awarded his PhD from the University of Cambridge in 1990 following work with Prof Don Broom to improve the welfare of caged hens. As a founding member of the Bristol Animal Behaviour and Welfare Group he has led research teams that work at the very applied end of animal welfare and animal production. Most of his work is carried out with farmers and/or industry with the aim of improving practice.

Toby has researched and published extensively across an unusually wide spectrum of species and subject areas and this work has often had high impact, leading to changes in legislation and practice at an international level. These have included improvements to the legislation and the practices covering the transport of most major farmed species, the housing and husbandry of both laying hens and broiler chickens, on-farm interventions to help control lameness in dairy cattle and the introduction of humane methods of slaughter for farmed fish.


I currently teach on and am unit director for two of our Animal Welfare and Behaviour degree units, however,  I've taught at undergraduate and post-graduate level on most courses at the Veterinary School. In addition to animal welfare and agriculture, as I am also a professional statistician, I teach statistics and experimental design and also provide statistical consultancy and advice for research staff within the Veterinary School.


  • Animal Welfare
  • Sustainable Production
  • Agriculture
  • Animal Husbandry
  • Epidemiology
  • Animal Behaviour

Recent publications

View complete publications list in the University of Bristol publications system

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