The awareness of issues in animal welfare and the need for its scientific study are globally rising. This scientific topic is connected to animal cognition and behaviour together with human wellbeing studies as well as studies related to the food industry, thus being inherently multidisciplinary. Peter Krawczel from the University of Tennessee (US) has been appointed associate professor in animal welfare in the Helsinki One Health research network. He is has just started his post, which is jointly divided between the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry and the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in the University of Helsinki, in mid-January.
Associate professor Peter Krawczel has an interdisciplinary research background combining environmental, agricultural and animal sciences. During his undergraduate studies, he worked as a research technician at the United States Department of Agriculture, which was effective in sharpening his visions of the future.
– My time there cultivated a keen interest in agricultural research. Animal welfare represented an area that allowed me to make a meaningful contribution to agriculture while also doing work that I felt was contributing towards making the world a slightly better place, explains Krawczel.
Focus on production animal welfare
Krawczel is specialised in research in production animal welfare. His goal is to try to understand the needs of production animals, especially from the housing point of view. Furthermore, he is interested in the practical means through which we can provide solutions to those animal needs. Besides livestock, he has conducted research on horses, and in the long term, he would also have us better understand what pets, such as dogs and cats, truly need from their home environments.
Human and non-human animal interaction bring additional elements to the study. Currently, there appears to be a disconnect between what constitutes animal welfare among those who are raising livestock and the general consumer of the products of animal agriculture. In the future, Krawczel will likely direct more of his focus into examining the human-animal interaction more closely: what factors lead to a breakdown of the human-animal connection in production settings and to the related detrimental effects on both animal and human welfare.
Multidisciplinary research critical for addressing global challenges
Krawczel sees the challenges regarding animal welfare as far too complex for any single discipline to provide meaningful answers to, so working in a multidisciplinary research environment is critical for improving the lives of animals and the humans involved with them.
– Our relationship with animals is really one of the critical factors that makes the human experience unique, and our welfare is linked to the welfare of all other animals. Helsinki One Health is an organised approach to conducting research that reflects this reality and provides real, workable solutions to some of the global challenges that we face, Krawczel reflects.
Krawczel has previously worked in other Nordic countries. He explains that these exposures to life in the Nordic region were also a major motivation for applying for the post, jointly divided between the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry and the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in the University of Helsinki, and he is looking forward to immersing himself into Finnish culture.
The HOH Helsinki One Health research network is based at the University of Helsinki and combines research into the health of both animals and humans. You can follow the HOH network on Twitter @HelsinkiOne, Facebook, and LinkedIn.