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-rooted disposition to feed animals.
The ‘From “feed the birds” to “don’t feed the animals”‘ project, funded by a £1.5 million grant from the Wellcome Trust, will look at our geological history and undertake a cross-cultural investigation to uncover the roots of animal feeding and critique the benefits/risks for all concerned. Particularly, it will test 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, with consequences for global human-animal-environmental health.
The interdisciplinary team is led by Professor Naomi Sykes, a zooarchaeologist from the University of Exeter, and brings together the University of Roehampton’s Professor Garry Marvin and other partners from the University of Reading and the National Museums Scotland. It includes experts in the fields of zooarchaeology, health and rural policy, feline osteology and comparative pathology, environmental geochemistry and anthropology. Garry will be responsible for the anthropological aspects of the project. To learn more about the project, check out the recent article in the New York Times.