Our Research Focus

Public and political debates on issues relating to animal protection, animal rights and animal ethics are often characterized by huge conflicts of interests and seemingly irreconcilable points of view. This is not surprising, as dealing with human-animal interactions also touches on issues from personal values to existential questions of humanity. The Messerli Research Institute is making a significant contribution to this discussion by creating scientifically sound and transparent concepts that answer ethically and socially relevant questions.

These concepts include the discussion of the following issues, which are organized thematically by the research fields in our units:

1. Comparative Cognitive Research

  • Which cognitive skills do animals use to find their way in their social and physical environments?
  • What influence does domestication and development have on the cognitive and emotional characteristics of animals?
  • Which cognitive and emotional dimensions reveal both significant differences and similarities between humans and animals?
  • To what extent and in which way should the behaviour and cognition of animals in human care be supported?
  • What are the foundations of the discrepancy between behaviour and attitude in the treatment of animals? How can this discrepancy be reduced?

2. Comparative Medicine

  • How do pets affect human health?
  • How do humans and their environment affect pets’ health?
  • How can veterinary medicine benefit from human medicine and vice versa?
  • How can medication be developed more rapidly and contribute to commercially viable treatment concepts in humans and animals?

3. Ethics in the Human-Animal Interactions and Animal Philosophy

  • What are viable foundations for the ethical respect of animals?
  • Which methods and theories are suitable and practical for dealing with current ethical problems in human-animal interactions?
  • What can be expected from more recent theories in animal ethics?
  • How do we determine the significance of the role that science, law, business and politics have in regard to questions on animal ethics?
  • What can empirical science contribute to ethical reasoning in particular?


Networking with institutes and individuals at the University of Veterinary Medicine is not only helpful but also essential for answering such questions.  Thus, the Messerli Research Institute sees itself as an institute working within both the grounds and the context of the University of Veterinary Medicine, integrating the available knowledge and expertise into its own work. In exchange, the Messerli Research Institute makes its findings available to the University of Veterinary Medicine for use in teaching and research. This mutual relationship helps both veterinary research and teaching to benefit from innovative scientific approaches and ethical expertise in human-animal interactions. In addition, students and staff at the Messerli Research Institute can also profit from the integration of veterinary expertise.




With the University of Vienna 1:

Department für Kognitionsbiologie 2, Fakultät für Lebenswissenschaften 3

Institut für Philosophie 4, Fakultät für Philosophie und Bildungswissenschaft 5

Institut für Psychologische Grundlagenforschung und Forschungsmethoden 6, Fakultät für Psychologie 7

Forschungsplattform Cognitive Sciences 8

With the Medical University of Vienna 9:

Institut für Pathophysiologie und Allergieforschung 10

Zentrum für Pathophysiologie, Infektiologie und Immunologie 11

Zentrum Medizinische Physik und Biomedizinische Technik 12, Exzellenzzentrum Hochfeld-MR 13