Thursday, 1 December 2016

Judging animal welfare in the US

Judging Animal Welfare

The annual US Animal Welfare Judging and Assessment Competition was held at Columbus in Ohio State in November this year, sponsored by the American Veterinary Medical Association (

This is an initiative originally developed by Michigan State University and Purdue to engage undergraduate Animal Science students with Animal Welfare, and has now grown to include veterinary undergraduates and graduate students, with around 100 students from schools across USA and Canada taking part this year. Students reviewed two different scenarios for each of three different species management (meat sheep, laboratory guinea pigs and pedigree dogs) and one live scenario (poultry), and provided reasoning for why welfare was better in one situation compared to another. 

This year Prof Cathy Dwyer was one of the judges for the meat sheep scenarios, alongside animal scientists and veterinarians from Canada and the US, and also gave a guest lecture on welfare issues associated with sheep production. It was a fun, thought-provoking and exhausting weekend, with lots of intense debate about the welfare merits or costs of various practices, and Cathy was very impressed with the dedication and hard work of all the students and coaches, many of whom were students themselves. Listening to, and marking, the rapid fire delivery of 40 students, each explaining the welfare benefits of sheep scenarios in three minutes, was hard work but very rewarding to see so much attention to detail in thinking about animal welfare. Congratulations to the University of British Colombia on winning the overall best team trophy, and to all the other winners and runners-up for a close-fought competition with such impressive breadth of welfare thinking.    

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

New Director in France for animal welfare meeting

ESLAV 20th Anniversary Meeting focuses on Animal Welfare

The joint meeting of the European Society for Laboratory Animal Veterinarians (ESLAV) and the European College for Laboratory Animal Medicine (ECLAM) took place in Lyon in November, with the 3 day meeting focusing on animal welfare.

JMICAWE's new Director Prof Cathy Dwyer was an invited speaker in the session on understanding animal needs, presenting a paper which explained the impact of early life experiences for animals on their later stress responses, behaviour and welfare.

It was a stimulating meeting, with genuine concern for laboratory animal welfare and a desire to improve matters through the development of a ‘culture of care’ running from top to bottom in institutions involved in research. The meeting involved a line-up of excellent speakers including Prof Don Broom, Prof David Fraser, Dr Birte Nielsen, Dr Sarah Heath and Prof Paul Flecknell to name but a few, and was wide-ranging dealing with conceptual issues, animal sensory abilities, lessons which can be learnt from other species and future directions. 

Dr Nielsen reminded us that many animal species have very different sensory abilities to our own: seeing in wavelengths, vocalising at frequencies and having olfactory capabilities all of which differ from human perception. Dr Heath discussed welfare issues around companion animal lives, and how owners understanding of the welfare needs of their pets may fall short of reality. Prof Fraser concluded the meeting with an excellent presentation that drew on developments in One Welfare, and reminded us that the most important part of animal welfare was the attitudes, beliefs and behaviours of the people who cared for animals.

The meeting stood out as one that engaged with animal welfare of laboratory, farm, zoo and companion animals in attempts to learn from the welfare messages developed by these different sectors.  

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

JMICAWE Vet recognised as inspirational Woman of STEM

Equate Scotland makes a positive difference for women in science, engineering, technology and the built environment.
Established in 2006, Equate Scotland is Scotland’s expert in gender equality throughout these fields. It makes a tangible and sustainable change, enabling women studying and working in these keys sectors to develop, by supporting their recruitment, retention and progression. Equate’s vision is of a progressive Scotland where women can contribute equally to advancements in science, engineering and technology and have fair access to the jobs of the future.
To this end, Equate have collated a few examples of inspirational women of past and current Scotland and JMICAWE were delighted that our own Heather Bacon was included in this listing. Heather said “It’s really important to champion the role of women in Science, and I’m incredibly honoured to be included with such inspirational women.”


Monday, 14 November 2016

International Deans' visit promotes veterinary education and animal welfare

At the beginning of November, the JMICAWE was delighted to host a 3 day workshop for visiting Deans from the Veterinary faculties of Cavite State University, Philippines; the University of the Philippines Los BaƱos; and the University of Bogor, Indonesia. The Deans were accompanied by Dr Daniel Ventura Jr, Dr Goy Satayaprasert and Dr Nancy Clarke, of World Animal Protection, who funded the trip.

After an incredibly successful visit comprising discussion, presentations, visits to the University farms, clinical and pre-clinical teaching facilities, the Deans left stating they felt ‘inspired’ to make changes within their own Universities aiming to enhance their educational teaching of veterinary undergraduates, and promoting concepts of animal welfare within their veterinary teaching.

Heather Bacon of the JMICAWE said “It was a wonderful visit and very positive for all of us. It was helpful for us to better understand the challenges some of our international colleagues face, and we hope to further develop our relationships through ongoing collaboration. We’re especially looking forward to hearing about the changes the Deans will implement on their return.”

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Sheep & Maple Syrup

Sheep and Maple Syrup

Professor Cathy Dwyer has just returned from a few days in Ontario, Canada, where she was the guest speaker at the Ontario Sheep Convention, held in Alliston, Ontario. Cathy spoke to nearly 200 sheep farmers and delegates about the science of ewe-lamb bonding, and how management could work with the natural behaviour of the ewe to improve lamb survival. She explained the biological processes that govern the onset of maternal care in sheep, and how the ewe is driven by hormonal changes around birth to develop a bond with her own lambs, and to reject others. Knowing the biology of the relationships can help farmers ensure that ewes and lambs are given the best chance to develop a strong mother-young relationship, which is good for sheep welfare and for farmer morale. In particular she emphasised giving the ewe time and space to show maternal behaviour without excessive human intervention.

Cathy was the guest of the Ontario Ministry for Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, who organised the convention with the Ontario Sheep Marketing Agency. Following the convention she visited a number of sheep farms, to see how Canadian farmers were dealing with the challenges of producing sheep in areas where temperatures can reach -40°C and coyote predation is a significant threat to sheep welfare. She met many of the guardian dogs that North American sheep farmers use to protect their flocks, and was impressed by the innovative and enthusiastic approach to sheep farming shown by many of the farmers.

Of course, no trip to Canada in the autumn would really be complete without sampling some of the (many) maple sugar products on offer, being amazed by the autumn colours in the trees and stunned by the incredible Hallowe’en decorations! 

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.