Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Dog Day at Vogrie Park - The Science behind the Wag

Dr Amy Miele from the JMICAWE team recently took part in a Midlothian Science Festival event entitled, ‘Dog Day: The Science Behind the Wag’, which was held at Vogrie Country Park on Sunday 9th October. The free event attracted hundreds of dog enthusiasts of all ages, who were able to get involved in hands on drop-in activities, workshops, agility and obedience demonstrations as well as an expert Q&A session. 

Members of the R(D)SVS, The Roslin Institute, Midlothian Dog Training Club, Dog’s Trust, Guide Dog’s Association, Canine Concern Scotland (Therapets) and All4paws came together to create an educational and fun-filled afternoon.

Activities focussed on understanding canine body language and emotions, with a ‘name the emotion’ task led by Benjamin Cross, R(D)SVS student and founder of the Dick Vet Animal Behaviour Society and a desensitisation workshop run by behaviour consultant and R(D)SVS lecturer in Clinical Animal Behaviour, Dr Amy Miele.  Amy was also one of the experts in the Q&A session (alongside trainer and behaviour advisor Julie Morrison from the Dog’s Trust and trainer Carol Mcdonald from the Midlothian Dog Training Club) , which was lively, stimulating and informative.

Event organiser Dr Heather McQueen from the University of Edinburgh and Midlothian Dog Training Club commented, ‘The event was a resounding success, people were genuinely fascinated by what the experts had to say and seemed really keen to utilise what they had learned to optimise their relationship with their dog’.

The event ended with the ‘Corridor of Temptation’, where owners were given the opportunity to show off their dog’s recall skills by asking them to run past a plethora of tempting treats and toys, including a plate of sausages and a rather life-like moving cat toy! While some dogs took the distractions in their stride and had eyes only for their handler, others were a little more curious, requiring the sausages to be replenished on a regular basis!

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Promoting animal welfare and veterinary care in Chinese zoos

Promoting animal welfare and veterinary care in Chinese zoos

Earlier this year the JMICAWE built on a long-term collaboration with NGO Animals Asia, and the Chinese Association of Zoo Gardens delivering an advanced Veterinary training workshop to 80 zoo vets from collections across China.

Standards of veterinary training in China remain much lower than in the UK, and there currently is no further training available on the subject of zoological medicine, meaning that for thousands of zoo animals across China, even basic healthcare is a challenge. Building on the success of this relationship representatives from AAF and JMICAWE were invited to attend the inaugural meeting of the CAZG Education Committee in September, and will be moving forward to cooperate with the North Eastern Forestry University in China, and CAZG to develop a strategy for education in veterinary skills, animal behaviour and welfare across the Chinese zoo community.

“We know that zoos are controversial to many people”, said Heather Bacon of the JMICAWE, “but we also recognise that zoos are a reality for many animals around the world, and if we can provide zoo vets and keepers with the skills to deliver good standards of husbandry and veterinary care, we can dramatically improve the welfare of hundreds of thousands of animals”

Monday, 10 October 2016

JMICAWE's Heather Bacon awarded BVA's Trevor Blackburn Award

Last week, the Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare Education was delighted to hear that our own Heather Bacon was announced as the recipient of BVA's Trevor Blackburn Award in recognition of her outstanding contribution to improving animal health and welfare in developing countries through education, charity work and research.

The award particularly recognises Heather’s work with Animals Asia to rehabilitate victims of the bear bile industry; her role as Veterinary Welfare Education and Outreach Manager at the University of Edinburgh’s Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare Education, in encouraging the use of manikins and models in place of live animals in veterinary teaching; her research and clinical practice to raise animal welfare and veterinary skills standards within the global zoo community; and her work with street dogs involved in Trap-Neuter-Return programmes.

On learning that she had been awarded the Trevor Blackburn Award, Heather commented:

“I’m truly honoured to receive the Trevor Blackburn award. To be recognised alongside previous recipients, and the wonderful contributions that they’ve made to animal health and welfare overseas is incredible. However, I’m acutely aware that none of my work would be possible without an amazing array of colleagues and friends around the world who support, facilitate, and advise me in order to ensure that the educational work that I do is not ‘lost in translation’. I feel incredibly lucky to be able to do the work that I do, and hope that awards such as this, which are so important in recognising the global impact of the UK veterinary community, will inspire vets across the UK to make a difference internationally.”


Well done, Heather - the team all send their sincere congratulations on this latest achievement!

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Professor Nat Waran leaves the JMICAWE and Edinburgh to return to New Zealand

Sadly this month, we are saying good bye to Prof Nat due to her family’s decision to
return to New Zealand.

Prof Nat was invited to return to Edinburgh in early 2011 (after 6 years of working in
New Zealand) to lead the development of the newly-established Jeanne Marchig International
Centre for Animal Welfare Education (JMICAWE) within the Royal (Dick) School of
Veterinary Studies. The creation of such a unique entity was made possible due to the
generous support and vision of the late Madame Jeanne Marchig and the Marchig

During the last five years, Prof Nat has led the Centre’s work in building some
influential and positive relationships with Governments, Universities, Professional
organisations and NGOs, in different parts of the world. Working with our various
partners has led to whole array of different initiatives related to improving animal and
human welfare using a ‘One Welfare’ approach. Last year, we were fortunate to secure
the continued commitment of the Marchig Trust to ensure the future operation of the
Centre, and so we look forward to deepening and widening these relationships over
the coming years.

However having spent 5 years leading the Centre as the inaugural Director and
travelling to many parts of the world to work with some great collaborators, Prof Nat
has now made the decision to return to New Zealand, where she and her family
(including three dogs, three cats and two horses) will enjoy reconnecting with the
country that they call home.

She will take up her new position as Professor of ‘One Welfare’ and Executive Dean for
Education, Humanities and Health Science at the Eastern Institute of Technology in
Hawkes Bay on October 3rd 2016 and she says that she is certainly planning to remain
involved with the Centre’s work and welcomes continued contact with you all.

Prof Nat Waran says:

‘The last 5 years have certainly been challenging but also wonderfully rewarding.
It has been a huge privilege to work with all of my colleagues overseas, without
whom the work we do would not be possible. I am extremely grateful to the
Marchig Trustees and the University of Edinburgh for trusting me to lead the
development of the Centre, and the initiatives and activities aimed at bringing
about positive changes for animals, through engaging with national and
international stakeholders involved in veterinary education, policy and animal
welfare practice. It has certainly been life-changing for me, and I know that this
has also been the case for many of the people we have reached so far; not just the
veterinary and masters students studying in Edinburgh, but also the wider
international community we work with and reach through our various online
programmes. I know that there is still much to do, but I hope that the work I have
been honored to play a part in developing, will continue to grow and influence
future generations of vets, as well as the thinking and practices of policy makers
and animal carers in places where animals suffer daily, and in parts of the world
where changes in attitudes and behaviour are essential if people are to
understand why improving conditions for animals is so important for both animal
and human health and welfare. I will miss working closely with my wonderful
team, but will certainly be staying involved with the Centre in my role as Hon
Professor for Animal Welfare, and I look forward to seeing how things develop
further with all that the opportunities that a new leadership will bring’.

Prof Nat’s position as Director of the Centre will be taken up by her Edinburgh
colleague, Professor Cathy Dwyer. Prof Dwyer is an esteemed animal welfare
researcher and she is already involved in a number of the existing JMICAWE projects
and is looking forward to introducing herself to you all in due course.

Nat will be leaving us on the 22nd September 2016 and we hope you will join us in
thanking her for all that she has done and wishing her and her family all the best for
their future life in NZ, ‘The land of the long white cloud’

Monday, 12 September 2016

Prof Waran in Sweden to present on equine welfare and examine a PhD

On her last visit to Europe as the JMICAWE Centre Director, Prof Nat was asked to present on 'Is it possible for Horses to be Happy Athletes'? alongside equitation science colleague Dr Katalijner Visser, who talked about welfare assessment protocol development for horses transported long distances for slaughter. 

The afternoon seminar was well attended by staff and students at the Swedish Agricultural University who had turned out to see the external experts establish their credibility in equine welfare prior to Sofie Viksten's successful PhD defence. 

Under the Swedish system, as the 'opponent' it was Nat's task to question Sofie about her work in order for the assessment panel to decide if she was worthy of her PhD. The thesis described a horse welfare assessment system Sofie had developed and tested for use in the Swedish Equine Industry, and the impact that the results of her assessments had on the attitudes and behaviours of the horse owners given feedback. Interestingly she found that horse owners, despite being provided with a large amount of individual feedback, were not particularly open to change and welfare improvements were minimal. There's clearly a lot to be understood about human behaviour change if we are to improve animal welfare, and this is something Sofie plans to develop further now that her PhD studies are behind her.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Prof Nat Waran presents to horse professionals on improving the welfare of horses in training

Its fitting given her passion for horses that our Centre Director Prof Nat Waran's last presentation in the UK for some time, before she leaves for New Zealand, was at the invitation of the British Horse Society. Presenting to an audience of some 250 BHS accredited coaches, professional riders, judges, horse breeders and horse keepers, she outlined the need to reduce the stress commonly caused due to  confusion during training and performance, through; promoting the use of evidence based humane training methods, improved understanding of the correct application of learning theory, improved rider/judge education for recognition of stress related behaviours and acceptance of the need to reward behaviours indicative of positive emotional states.

One attendee commented, ' For me personally hearing learning theory applied to horse training explained so eloquently by Prof. Nat Waran, taking main stage at such an important conference AND the fact that it counted as my official BHS Accredited Coach compulsory CPD, shows me the BHS is serious about positive change which will benefit horse welfare'. 

Monday, 5 September 2016

Prof Cathy Dwyer presents on Lamb welfare at well attended European Conference

The European Association of Animal Production in Belfast (EAAP) held its annual meeting in Belfast this week, attended by more than 1000 scientists from across Europe and beyond. The meeting covers all aspects of animal production from dog breeding and equine welfare to genetics and genomics of milk and fibre production, and everything in between.

Our own Prof Cathy Dwyer presented in the session on methods for reducing lamb mortality, by seeking to translate their group's  extensive research findings into practical on farm applications to improve lamb survival and welfare. She gave an overview of the biological principles behind survival, and then chaired a lively session focussed on understanding the barriers to collecting good quality data on farm.

In addition Cathy attempted to navigate the complexities of the timetable (73 sessions running in 10 parallel streams) to hear some interesting papers on the use of Infra Red Thermography to assess stress and welfare in dairy calves and racehorses, on farm assessment of welfare in pigs and how dressage trainers translate the ‘voice of the horse’ (through interpreting horse behaviour) to their riders.   

The best quote of the day came from Huw Davies (a well known Welsh sheep farmer and member of the Farm Animal Welfare Committee (FAWC) who reminded us that, without good data or records we can always fool ourselves that we are being successful. A good reminder that production and welfare evaluations should always seek to be evidence-based! 

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

International Animal Welfare, Ethics and Law Masters students complete their projects and their degrees

Our second cohort of students studying on the online Masters programme in International Animal Welfare, Ethics and Law (IAWEL) received notification of their Masters degree results this week (to be awarded in graduation ceremony in November). The students have been working really hard on their projects for the past year, writing a thesis and undertaking two live presentations. The subjects of this year’s projects have varied widely, all have made fascinating reading and will certainly add to our knowledge in animal welfare science.

The subjects covered are varied and challenging. We have had two legal analyses: one, assessing the effect of so-called ‘Ag-Gag’ laws on farm animal welfare and the other, evaluating the levels of protection given to rabbits as pets, lab animals, and pests. One student undertook a gap analysis of non-surgical methods of dog population control from a welfare perspective. A student based in Vietnam assessed understanding and attitude of people in different regions of Vietnam to Pangolins, an animal that is at great risk of extinction from hunting and trading. One student who is based on Saipan assessed attitude to pet and ‘boonie’ (street) dogs on the Pacific islands of Guam and Saipan. Our first IAWEL student from mainland China carried out the first ever survey of Chinese dog owners about dog behaviour problems.

All of our IAWEL students are encouraged to publish their work in scientific publication if possible, and we look forward to hearing about their publication successes in the coming months.

Programme Director, Dr Fritha Langford said; 'The combined welfare team of  JMICAWE and SRUC staff, along with all of our enthusiastic external lecturers, wish our new graduates all the best in their future endeavours'.

Friday, 12 August 2016

NEW Clinical Animal Behaviour MSc

With only a few weeks to go before the new Clinical Animal Behaviour PG programme goes live, Programme Director, Prof Nat Waran and Prog Coordinator Dr Amy Miele are really pleased with the good number of applications that they received. ‘It looks like we will be welcoming considerably more students than we originally planned for in our first year, and the diverse range of backgrounds and expertise makes for an excellent student cohort ’ said Dr Amy Miele. She adds, 'this is a subject area of growing interest and it is fantastic to see that so many veterinary and animal welfare professionals are committed to developing their knowledge of behaviour in order to improve the welfare of the animals in their care'. The Programme, is an extension of the highly successful suite of online Masters programmes offered through the RDSVS, including the International animal welfare, ethics and law programme that was developed through the JMICAWE in 2012. 

JMICAWE Director Prof Nat Waran, who is responsible for developing this new programme comments; ’Its an interesting and challenging subject area, with students from many countries coming together to study wholly online, a range of subjects related to the theory of companion animal behaviour, causes of problem behaviour and animal welfare needs including; learning and motivation, behaviour modification, the science behind different therapies and treatment of behavioural problems, and the human-animal bond . We are really pleased to be able to offer this extremely socially relevant programme here at the RDSVS where we are committed to providing quality evidence based education to help improve animal welfare’.

The MSc in Clinical Animal Behaviour is a new programme in 2016 using the University of Edinburgh’s award winning online learning environments.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Filming for MOOC 2- 'The Truth about cats and dogs' gets underway

With the success of our first MOOC (a Massive Open access Online Course) addressing issues relating to international animal welfare, we have responded to the many requests we have had to create a new MOOC, to provide an indepth look into the world of cats and dogs worldwide, to help dispel some of the myths and misunderstandings about pet behaviour and discover the truth about their needs.

Scripts are being created, images sourced and filming has now started, and the JMICAWE team's pets have all been washed and spruced ready for their big moments. We are well underway and excited about what we have planned.

JMICAWE team dogs are all ready for their starring roles
This free online course will be made available on Coursera (https://www.coursera.org/) by January 2017, but you can follow our, at times quite hilarious progress as we make our films (well anyone working with animals and scientists should expect some unplanned events!) by watching out for our tweets, blogs and facebooks posts at this link: http://www.ed.ac.uk/vet/jeanne-marchig-centre/news

Friday, 22 July 2016

Tina Widowski lectures on the free range egg debate

An interesting link from our colleagues in Australia:-

Tina Widowski's Dean’s lecture, Marketing vs science – who's really winning in the free range egg debate?”, can now be accessed on our website seminar page. PDF, video and narrated presentation.

Animal Welfare Science Centre
Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences
The University of Melbourne

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Meeting our Animal Welfare ambassadors in China and Hong Kong

Meeting our Animal Welfare ambassadors in China and Hong Kong

On our travels, its wonderful to meet up with our former and current animal welfare Masters and veterinary students, as well as overseas colleagues who have spent some time in Edinburgh. It makes you realise that the network of animal ambassadors is growing all of the time, and like a tree – the branches expand our animal welfare teaching far wider than our little team could ever reach.

This week I was fortunate to meet up with Prof Li Peng and Prof Lin DeGui in Beijing at the Chinese Agricultural University’s veterinary school. Both of these veterinary lecturers have been involved with us over the past few years, inviting our team to teach their students and staff about the use of non animal models for teaching veterinary medicine and last year they came to Edinburgh to look at how we embed animal welfare into our teaching and practice. It was heartening to discuss their interest in deepening our working relationship through a veterinary programme link.

In addition when in Hong Kong I had the chance to meet with Dr Tinny Ho, Prof Amanda Whitfort, Dr SK Kong and Elaine Su – all Masters students of the International Animal Welfare, Ethics, Policy and Law programme at Edinburgh. Tinny showed me around the equine facilities at Beas River Country club where she keeps her horse, and where she is carrying out her Masters research project (see picture below). In addition she was keen to share her enthusiasm for developing an understanding of equitation science in HK. Later we met with our vet school Alumni and great friends of the JMICAWE who all work with the HK SPCA – Assistant director Dr Fiona Woodhouse, Head Vet Dr Jane Gray (who is currently studying on our online Animal Welfare Masters) and Tanya Masters (a RDSVS graduate). With this animal welfare powerhouse in HK – there is no wonder that there have been a number of positive moves for animal welfare here and certainly more to come with the recent discussion relating to animal breeders.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Veterinary Education collaborations welcomed in Jilin, China

Veterinary Education collaborations welcomed in Jilin, China

Earlier this month, the JMICAWE team travelled to the city of Changchun in Jilin province to deliver a 2 day workshop on animal welfare, animal behaviour, and veterinary skills to veterinary lecturers and students from 13 vet schools across China.

Comprehensive veterinary knowledge of subjects such as animal behaviour and pain recognition are essential to the good welfare of our animal patients, but are often not taught in Chinese vet schools; additionally the overuse of live animals in veterinary training may cause emotional conflicts in students who naturally want to ‘help’ animals.

Building on the success of the workshop, Jilin University is keen to develop training courses in the wider nursing and pain management of animal patients, and students from the course were delighted to learn of international standards in veterinary education.

Heather Bacon, of the JMICAWE, who received a follow up email from a student at the workshop, said she was delighted with the response “Animal welfare in China is sometimes seen as being a contentious issue, but significant improvements in animal welfare can be made simply through improving standards in veterinary education, and the skills of vets in practice, and it is this practical approach to improving welfare through improved veterinary care, that the JMICAWE focuses on”

And the student email?  Well you can read for yourself the importance of these topics to veterinary students in China!

“I sincerely hope the collaboration between the university of Edinburgh and Jilin University could improve the welfare of animals beginning from Jilin University. I remembered Hayley said it would be ground-breaking to start using non-animal models in teaching, and it could even earn the university itself a reputation (although I think it should not be the reputation that we are after, it should be the true affections for animals that drive us to care the welfare of animal). But it does not harm because I have always believed in the saying that ‘fake it till you make it’. 
I am sure a lot of students are feeling the same way I do.
Thanks for sowing the seed into our hearts. It will grow.”

Monday, 18 July 2016

Discussing Equine Behaviour and Welfare at ISES in Saumur

Discussing Equine Behaviour and Welfare at ISES in Saumur

It's always a treat when we get to meet old friends and discuss new directions in animal welfare research. The International Society for Equitation Science recently held their annual meeting at the invitation of the Cadre Noir, at the French National Riding School in Saumur. During the conference, we heard of the findings of research into potentially painful and restrictive issues with the use of over-tight nosebands used on horses, an all too common practice in the world of competition horses, and the subject of a three year PhD carried out by one of our former Masters in Animal Welfare students, Dr Orla Doherty. We also had the chance to observe and question different equine trainers, and to discuss the methods used for equine temperament testing in France and to provide valuable feedback to the relevant research team.

Prof Nat Waran, who is a founding member and Hon. Fellow of the International Society for Equitation Science, a subject that is now taught as an MSc Course within the University of Edinburgh’s Equine Master’s programme says:

 ‘Many of the methods used to train horses around the world rely on traditional approaches, which work, but may not always be the most humane,effective or ethical. This annual gathering of equitation scientists and practitioners provides an excellent forum for constructive discussion and exchange of ideas, encourages research to inform better practice and allows us to question beliefs and non-evidence based approaches in the hope that we will help improve equine welfare’.