Dr Kirrilly Thompson
School of Medicine and Public Health
I hold a PhD in Social Sciences (2007), based on ethnographic research into bullfighting from horseback in Southern Spain. Since that theoretical beginning in human-animal relations, I have conducted applied ethnographic and mixed methods research projects across a diversity of topics. These have included: organisational risk management, children's sleep and health, train driver fatigue, passenger railway crowding, domestic food waste, academic leadership, large animal rescue and natural disaster preparedness.
I have an international reputation for my research into human-animal relations, behaviour change for animal welfare and horse rider safety.
In 2013, I secured an ARC DECRA fellowship to reconfigure pet ownership from a natural disaster survival risk factor to a protective factor.
In 2015, I was one of ABC Radio National’s Top 5 Scientists Under 40 for Science Communication.
My publications portfolio includes over 100 peer-review articles, chapters, edited volumes, manuscripts, reports and magazine articles (h index = 14). I have published several articles in The Conversation, am a regular social science contributor to Horses and People Magazine and co-authored the book ‘(Un)Stable Relations: Horses, Humans and Social Agency’ (Routledge, 2018).
In addition to my research role at the University of Newcastle, I am an Adjunct Senior Research Fellow at the University of South Australia and have been the longstanding Vice Chair of the Horse Federation of South Australia.
I am driven by kindness, compassion, social justice and sustainability.
- PHD, University of Adelaide
- Bachelor of Social Sciences Honours, University of Adelaide
- behaviour change
- disaster preparedness
- equestrian social science
- equitation science
- human behaviour change for animal welfare
- human-animal relations
- natural disasters
- qualitative research
- risk perception
- social science
- Spanish (Working)
Fields of Research
|440107||Social and cultural anthropology||50|
|Title||Organisation / Department|
|Research Fellow||University of Newcastle
School of Medicine and Public Health
|Dates||Title||Organisation / Department|
|11/1/2012 - 31/3/2018||Researcher||Central Queensland University
Appleton Institute, Adelaide Campus
|1/1/2008 - 31/12/2011||Postdoctoral Research Fellow||University of South Australia
Centre for Sleep Research and Human Factors
For publications that are currently unpublished or in-press, details are shown in italics.
Book (3 outputs)
Birke L, Thompson K, (Un)stable relations: Horses, humans and social agency (2017)
This original and insightful book explores how horses can be considered as social actors within shared interspecies networks. It examines what we know about how horses understand ... [more]
This original and insightful book explores how horses can be considered as social actors within shared interspecies networks. It examines what we know about how horses understand us and how we perceive them, as well as the implications of actively recognising other animals as actors within shared social lives. This book explores how interspecies relationships work, using a variety of examples to demonstrate how horses and people build social lives. Considering horses as social actors presents new possibilities for improving the quality of animal lives, the human condition and human-horse relations.
Adelman M, Thompson K, Equestrian cultures in global and local contexts (2017)
This edited volume demonstrates the broader socio-cultural context for individual human-horse relations and equestrian practices by documenting the international value of equines;... [more]
This edited volume demonstrates the broader socio-cultural context for individual human-horse relations and equestrian practices by documenting the international value of equines; socially, culturally, as subjects of academic study and as drivers of public policy. It broadens our understanding of the importance of horses to humans by providing case studies from an unprecedented diversity of cultures. The volume is grounded in the contention that the changing status of equines reveals - and moves us to reflect on - important material and symbolic societal transformations ushered in by (post)modernity which affect local and global contexts alike. Through a detailed consideration of the social relations and cultural dimensions of equestrian practices across several continents, this volume provides readers with an understanding of the ways in which interactions with horses provide global connectivity with localized identities, and vice versa. It further discusses new frontiers in the research on and practice of equestrianism, framed against global megatrends and local micro-trends.
Designing for Zero Waste, Routledge
Chapter (9 outputs)
Adelman M, Thompson K, 'Introduction to equestrian cultures in global and local contexts', 1-14 (2017)
The changing status of equines is revealing of the many important material and symbolic societal transformations ushered in by (post)modernity- affecting global and local contexts... [more]
The changing status of equines is revealing of the many important material and symbolic societal transformations ushered in by (post)modernity- affecting global and local contexts alike. However, few have asked if the changing status of equines is consistent across cultures near and far in time and place. In looking deeper into this question, we redress a concerning imbalance in existing social science literature on equestrian cultures and the equine industry, which has focused almost exclusively on European and North American contexts. The volume we have put together here mounts a convincing argument for the value of equines as subjects of academic study and drivers of public policy. In this introduction, we outline how the different chapters in this volume push current literature and discussion forward. Together they go beyond the work/sport horse divide, reformulate human-horse relations as they unfold socially and historically, and inquire into current equestrian configurations in a wide range of cultural contexts (contributions on Brazil, China, Iran, Morocco, and South Africa are included here). We identify key threads in the burgeoning field of equestrian social science to which our book contributes-gender in equestrian practices; concerns regarding the new equine market and new equine workforce; equestrianism throughout the human life course; class, race, and ethnicity; representations of tradition and modernity in equestrian culture; and performing identity for the self and others. Together, our contributors discuss how these threads intersect in, through and across global and local equestrian contexts.
Thompson K, Adelman M, 'Afterword: Formalising equestrian social science', Equestrian Cultures in Global and Local Contexts 267-278 (2017)
In this concluding chapter, we consider the aggregate significance of our volume. In relation to expanding an understanding of equestrian cultures around the globe, contributions ... [more]
In this concluding chapter, we consider the aggregate significance of our volume. In relation to expanding an understanding of equestrian cultures around the globe, contributions fortified existing research on equestrian cultures in Europe (Chaps. 4, 5, 6 and 7) and North America (Chaps. 9 and 10) whilst providing rare insight into the scarcely studied equestrian cultures of Iran (Chap. 2), Poland (Chap. 8), Morocco (Chap. 12), South Africa (Chap. 13), Brazil (Chap. 11) and China (Chap. 3). Missing from our volume was research on equestrian cultures in Oceania and Australasia as well as other parts of Latin America. At a thematic level, our contributors addressed our earlier call to consider equestrian cultures according to class, risk, equality, aesthetics, sector, identity, age, rural/urban and media. However, whilst these themes are dealt with in depth in the present volume, they are largely anthropocentric. We propose two ways in which an equino-centric perspective could rebalance the literature: (1) by asking how horses take part in equestrian culture and (2) how equestrian culture impacts horses. Given that the experimental field of Equitation Science has made rapid advancements in understanding 'the nature of horses', we recommend the formalisation of a sister science to provide a complementary understanding of 'the cultures of horses', to better understand how horses and humans together generate equestrian cultures. This Afterword thus provides a rationale for the formalisation of Equestrian Social Science in research and teaching. We outline four areas of research that would benefit considerably from Equestrian Social Science: (1) working equids, (2) equine-assisted therapies, (3) welfare, ethics and social license and (4) sustainable equestrian cultures.
Thompson K, 'Global equestrian trends in local context: Where are all the women in doma vaquera competitions in Southern Spain?', Equestrian Cultures in Global and Local Contexts 65-79 (2017)
There is a recognized global trend towards increasing female participation in equestrian sports. However, it is important to understand the different ways in which global trends c... [more]
There is a recognized global trend towards increasing female participation in equestrian sports. However, it is important to understand the different ways in which global trends can impact or be challenged by equestrian cultures at their location of origin. For example, whilst women in Southern Spain are frequent competitors in the global 'Olympic' equestrian disciplines of showjumping, eventing and dressage, they are few and far between in doma vaquera competitions, based on local Andalusian riding activitites and aesthetics. This chapter reports the experiences of four capable women doma vaquera riders, supplemented by my own autoethnographic experience as an Australian woman in a Spanish stable yard. Each woman gives a different explanation for the absence of women from doma vaquera competitions. The narratives suggest that even when traditional equestrian pursuits associated with rural spaces and masculinity are translated into competitions and transferred to urban areas, they may still be subject to local norms about which bodies can compete with and against which other bodies, in what ways and in which kinds of spaces. Whist the idea of women and men being able to compete against one another in equestrian sport is admirable it may not always occur 'on equal terms'. In fact, depending on the local culture, it could be inherently unequal.
|Show 6 more chapters|
Journal article (69 outputs)
Wilson BJ, Thompson KR, McGreevy PD, 'The race that segments a nation: Findings from a convenience poll of attitudes toward the Melbourne Cup Thoroughbred horse race, gambling and animal cruelty', PLoS ONE, 16 (2021)
The annual Melbourne Cup Thoroughbred horse race has iconic status among many Australians but sits in the context of increasing criticism of the welfare of Thoroughbred racing hor... [more]
The annual Melbourne Cup Thoroughbred horse race has iconic status among many Australians but sits in the context of increasing criticism of the welfare of Thoroughbred racing horses and the ethics of gambling. Despite heated debates and protests playing out in the public domain, there is scant empirical research to document Australian attitudes to the Melbourne Cup, or horse racing more generally. Specifically, little is known about how support for or against the Melbourne Cup correlate with age, gender, income and level of education. To provide a more nuanced understanding of attitudes towards the cup beyond the rudimentary binaries of those who are 'for' or 'against' gambling and horse racing, the purpose of the study was to identify clusters of people with particular views. An opportunistic survey collected data on respondents' gender, age, place of residence, weekly income, employment status and highest level of education, and sought their level of agreement with six statements about the Melbourne Cup, gambling and animal cruelty. Ordinal logistic regression and Chi-square analysis were used to evaluate the age and gender of respondents in clusters respectively. Agreement with the statements revealed some significant associations. Male respondents were at greater odds for agreement with the statement: I regularly bet on horse races (OR = 2.39; 95% CI = 1.78-3.22) as were respondents aged 18-19 years (OR = 2.88; 95% CI = 1.13-7.35) and 20-24 years (OR = 1.90; 95% CI 1.00-3.62) compared with the median 35-40 years age bracket. Agreement with the statement: I will watch the Melbourne Cup but will not place a bet was more likely among the full-time employed (OR = 1.60; 95% CI = 1.10-2.32), for those aged 20-24 years (OR = 1.85; 95% CI = 1.16-2.95). The odds of increasing agreement with the statement: I have never been interested in the Melbourne Cup were multiplied by 0.87 (95% CI = 0.82-0.92) with each successive fiveyear age bracket. The most useful of the predictor variables for agreement was level of education. The odds of increasing with the statement: I have become less interested in the Melbourne Cup over recent years because of my concerns with gambling were multiplied by 1.09 (95% CI = 1.02-1.15) for each increased level of education. Agreement with the statement: I have become less interested in the Melbourne Cup because of my concerns about animal cruelty was weaker amongst male respondents (OR = 0.62; 95% CI = 0.48-0.80), and those in increasing age brackets (OR = 0.88; 95% CI = 0.83-0.93). A series of six clusters were identified that show how certain attributes of respondents characterise their responses. The authors labelled these clusters "Devotees"(n = 313; 30.4% of respondents), "Flaneurs"(n = 244; 21.8% of respondents), "Disapprovers"(n = 163; 15.9% of respondents), "Casuals"(n = 148; 14.4% of respondents), "Gamblers"(n = 126; 12.3% of respondents) and "Paradoxical-voters"(n = 54; 5.3% of respondents). The implications for support of the Melbourne Cup are explored. Copyright:
Thompson K, McManus P, Stansall D, Wilson BJ, McGreevy PD, 'Is whip use important to thoroughbred racing integrity? What stewards reports reveal about fairness to punters, jockeys and horses', Animals, 10 1-13 (2020)
The idea that whip use is critical to thoroughbred racing integrity is culturally entrenched but lacks empirical support. To test the longstanding beliefs that whip use aids steer... [more]
The idea that whip use is critical to thoroughbred racing integrity is culturally entrenched but lacks empirical support. To test the longstanding beliefs that whip use aids steering, reduces interference, increases safety and improves finishing times, we conducted a mixed-method analysis of 126 race reports produced by official stewards of the British Horseracing Authority, representing 1178 jockeys and their horses. We compared reports from 67 ¿Hands and Heels¿ races, where whips are held but not used (whipping-free, WF), with 59 reports from case-matched races where whipping was permitted (whipping permitted, WP). Qualitative coding was used to identify and categorise units of analysis for statistical testing via logistic regression and linear mixed model regression. For both types of race, we explored stewards having anything to report at all, movement on course, interference on course, incidents related to jockey behaviour and finishing times. There were no statistically significant differences between WF and WP races for anything to report (OR: 3.06; CI: 0.74¿14.73), movement on course (OR: 0.90; CI: 0.37¿2.17), interference (OR: 0.90; CI: 0.37¿2.17), jockey-related incidents (OR: 1.24; CI: 0.32¿5.07), and race times (0.512 s, t = 1.459, p = 0.150). That is, we found no evidence that whip use improves steering, reduces interference, increases safety or improves finishing times. These findings suggest that the WF races do not compromise racing integrity. They also highlight the need for more effective ways to improve the steering of horses.
Chapman M, Thomas M, Thompson K, 'What people really think about safety around horses: The relationship between risk perception, values and safety behaviours', Animals, 10 1-22 (2020)
The equestrian industry reports high rates of serious injuries, illness and fatalities when compared to other high-risk sports and work environments. To address these ongoing safe... [more]
The equestrian industry reports high rates of serious injuries, illness and fatalities when compared to other high-risk sports and work environments. To address these ongoing safety concerns, a greater understanding of the relationship between human risk perception, values and safety behaviours is required. This paper presents results from an international survey that explored relationships between a respondents¿ willingness to take risk during daily activities along with, their perceptions of risk and behaviours during horse-related interactions. Respondents¿ comments around risk management principles and safety-first inspirations were also analysed. We examined what humans think about hazardous situations or activities and how they managed risk with suitable controls. Analysis identified three important findings. First, safe behaviours around horses were associated with safety training (formal and/or informal). Second, unsafe behaviours around horses were associated with higher levels of equestrian experience as well as income from horse-related work. Finally, findings revealed a general acceptance of danger and imminent injury during horse interactions. This may explain why some respondents de-emphasised or ¿talked-down¿ the importance of safety-first principles. In this paper we predominantly reported quantitative findings of respondents self-reported safety behaviours, general and horse-related risk perceptions despite injury or illness. We discussed the benefits of improved safety-first principles like training, risk assessments, rider-horse match with enriched safety communications to enhance risk-mitigation during human¿horse interactions.
|Show 66 more journal articles|
Conference (2 outputs)
Vlaholias EG, Thompson K, Every D, Dawson D, 'Reducing food waste through charity: Exploring the giving and receiving of redistributed food' (2015)
Food waste is a problem with serious environmental, social, financial, and moral implications. Reducing the amount of food sent to landfill is a key challenge to increase environm... [more]
Food waste is a problem with serious environmental, social, financial, and moral implications. Reducing the amount of food sent to landfill is a key challenge to increase environmental sustainability. Over the past decade the food redistribution sector has grown with the rise of several new food bank and food rescue organisations. These organisations collect excess food and distribute it to welfare agencies that feed people in need. However, it is possible that by diverting food from landfill, a social problem is created or furthered for the people that receive this wasted food. Without first knowing if food redistribution organisations are causing unintentional harm to the recipients, we cannot develop and enhance them as a commercial food waste reduction strategy. There is a scarcity of critical research that explores the donors and recipients' experiences of giving and receiving redistributed food. Using ethnographic research methods of participant observation and interviews, this paper examines the perspectives of the multiple parties involved at each level of food redistribution. The findings of this study will recommend suitable methods to target and motivate people from the food industry to become donors. Furthermore, i will suggest ways to improve the experiences of recipients accessing the redistributed food. As a result, this paper will provide insight to optimise food redistribution organisations, with implications for the future policy and practice of food waste and food poverty interventions.
Hirsch L, Thompson K, 'I can sit but I'd rather stand: Commuter's experience of crowdedness and fellow passenger behaviour in carriages on Australian metropolitan trains', ATRF 2011 - 34th Australasian Transport Research Forum (2014)
For many people in Australia, crowding is a major issue and an unavoidable aspect of their daily rail commute. Australian passenger experiences, perceptions of, and their reaction... [more]
For many people in Australia, crowding is a major issue and an unavoidable aspect of their daily rail commute. Australian passenger experiences, perceptions of, and their reactions to crowding are not well understood. To gain an understanding of passenger perceptions and tolerance of railway crowding and the impact of passenger behaviour on the crowding experience, qualitative (Stage 1) and quantitative (Stage 2) fieldwork was undertaken between 2009 and 2010 across the five metropolitan railways in Australia. Some results from Stage 1, a two-part qualitative study are given. This involved ethnographic participant observations on trains in five States and 20 focus groups with a total of 179 Australian rail passengers. Focus group participants discussed their reactions to being in close proximity to others in a closed environment and these are examined. This paper will explore the ways in which passengers experience, tolerate and construct perceptions of crowdedness through both avoidance techniques and interactions with fellow passengers.