Obituary: Professor David Wood-Gush

David Grainger Marcus Wood- Gush, ethologist, born Transkei South Africa 20 November 1922, staff Department of Agriculture Edinburgh University 1978-92, Honorary Professor 1981-92, died London 1 December 1992.

DAVID WOOD-GUSH was one of the first to evaluate the effects on animals of 'factory farming'. He was an applied ethologist, carrying out research into the behaviour of domesticated animals in order to improve both agricultural productivity and the lot of the animals themselves.

A pioneer, Wood-Gush recognised that if humane treatment and economic viability are to go hand in hand, it is essential to take account of the social behaviour of agricultural animals when designing housing and husbandry systems. Stress in animals and its causes and development was a particular interest, and he demonstrated the importance of social factors. He established that the animal should not be thought of as a commodity, but as an individual whose dominant or subordinate status within the annimal community influences its access to resources such as food, mates and shelter. Since in captivity subordinates generally cannot avoid dominants, Wood-Gush showed that carefully designed housing and feeding methods are required if all individuals are to obtain sufficient resources and stress is to be avoided. He designed housing systems catering for the animals' needs based on detailed, scientific studies of how they use a more natural environment. Together with other colleagues, he set up a 'pig park' near Edinburgh in an area of mixed woodland and grassland in which the pigs were observed 'free-range'. This led to the design of a more humane, but still economically viable, housing system. In marked contrast to traditional housing, Wood-Gush's designs allowed the animals to keep themselves clean, root around and interact, and where sows could build nests and remain with their young, rather than being chained in farrowing crates with the piglets forcibly weaned at a very early age.

In addition to their practical application, all of these studies produced a large number of scientific papers. At the time of his death Wood-Gush had published more papers than any other individual in the leading ethological journal Animal Behaviour. He was elected president of the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour and Chairman of the Society of Veterinary Ethologists.

David Wood-Gush was also very interested in education and began teaching at Edinburgh University's School of Agriculture in 1978. He had numerous research students, produced a textbook aimed at getting veterinary students informed in animal behaviour, and recently set up the first MSc course in Applied Animal Behaviour and Animal Welfare.

Though an eminent, internationally recognised scientist in his field, Wood-Gush kept his own trumpet firmly in its case, and detested the pushy kind of academic with a thirst for recognition rather than knowledge. His humane attitude to animals reflected his whole personality.

Born in South Africa, he came to Britain as a young man and remained disgusted with the racist South African regime. Interesting, and interested, he was one of an increasingly rare breed of scientist: cultured and intellectual. He had long suffered great pain from his arm following the loss of his left hand as a young man, sometimes severe enough to cause him suddenly to crouch forward in mid-sentence. But he never complained and was always a warm, charming man. I can see his tall distinguished figure now, flamboyant red kerchief tied round his neck, head tossed back and face creased with laughter as he related some humorous tale. When male colleagues call one 'dear' it can be irritatingly patronising; with David Wood-Gush it always felt like a compliment.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Management Trainer

£30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Exciting career opportunity to join East...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Scientist / Research Assistant

£18000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious start-up company b...

Reach Volunteering: Chair of Trustees

VOLUNTARY ONLY - EXPENSES REIMBURSED: Reach Volunteering: Do you love the Engl...

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?