For almost four decades Professor Hemsworth pioneered and led internationally
acclaimed research on the role of human-animal interactions on the welfare and
productivity of farm livestock.
His research (over 500 publications and 200 peer reviewed papers) has shown how human characteristics, such as attitudes and behaviour towards farm animals, affect their fear and acute and chronic stress responses - seriously limiting both farm animal welfare and productivity. By understanding the influence of human attitudes and behaviour on animal fear, stress, productivity and welfare, this research underpinned the development and application of purpose-designed training programmes in the dairy, pig and poultry industries. These programmes successfully modified key human characteristics and resulted in improvements in farm animal welfare and productivity. His research programme was multi-faceted, evolving from studies in laboratories and farms, then extended to psychological investigation of both the impact of stockperson attitudes on farm livestock and motivational modification of stockpersons - resulting in welfare and productivity improvement. Most recently he has extended his work to human-animal interactions in zoos and domestic settings.
In 1997, Professor Hemsworth jointly established the Animal Welfare Science Centre (AWSC) with the University of Melbourne, Monash University and the Department of Natural Resources and Environment (Victoria). As Director (a post he held until 2017), he led it to become the pre-eminent such Centre in Australia and for it to deservedly enjoy a reputation internationally as an innovative major contributor to animal welfare science developments involving the key disciplines of animal behaviour, psychology, stress physiology and veterinary medicine.
The Centre's influence on animal welfare thinking under Professor Hemsworth’s leadership and active involvement in supervision has been widely spread by its 45 postgraduate students who successfully completed PhD, Masters and Honours degrees.