Tuesday, 28 May 2013

BVM&S Students - enjoy the Animal Welfare Final Year Elective

This year, the R(D)SVS offered their BVM&S students a new final year elective - in Applied Animal Behaviour and Welfare.

This new elective was designed to further the student's knowledge and understanding of domestic and captive wild animal's welfare and to provide some practical experience relating to the management of problem/abnormal animal behaviour in domestic and captive settings, including clinical animal behaviour counselling.

Throughout the two week period, the students went on numerous field trips including Edinburgh Zoo and a Pig Farm Unit.

During the latter the group discussed with Dr Susan Jarvis:
a)    The dominance and hunger in sows and did a feed competition test to assess dominance.
b)    Mutilations, genetic selection, housing etc.

Students were also able to:
a)    See sucklings in the farrowing house and time the let-down etc.
b)    Look at grower behaviour and write down some behaviours and definitions - play, aggression, rooting, resting, mounting etc.

Here is a picture of one of the final year students recording grower behaviour:

Feedback from the students has been very positive - Student KY said: “Thanks for the past 2 weeks, I really did enjoy it a lot. Everything that we did was extremely thought provoking/inspiring . I feel very honoured and fortunate to be one of the first people to have done this rotation, and certainly appreciate the effort and time that all the teachers have put into it. Thanks again and hope the students next year will enjoy it as much as we did.”

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Mary Baxter, winner of the WPSA Poultry Scholarship reports on her MSc AABAW dissertation

Mary Baxter, winner of the WPSA (World Poultry Science Association) Scholarship reports on her dissertation, 'An investigation into the effectiveness of enrichment items provided to laying hens and pullets.'
I am currently on the home stretch of the MSc AABAW (Masters in Applied Animal Behaviour and Animal Welfare) at Edinburgh’s R(D)SVS and having a life-long interest in poultry, I chose to carry out my dissertation with Dr Laura Dixon at the SRUC Avian Science Research Centre in Auchincruive, Ayr. My study is a preliminary investigation of enrichment items provided to laying hens and pullets that could be used instead of, or in conjunction with, current commercially available enrichments and will help indicate whether these items need to be presented pre-lay to the birds.
Following the 2012 ban, old-style battery cages have been replaced with furnished colony cages. These cages contain more birds, 60-80 hens rather than 6, they provide a total of 750cm2 per bird, a perch, scratching area and a nesting area with plastic coated wire or astroturf flooring and enclosed with plastic curtains. However, the design of these enrichments can be quite artificial and may not have high usage or satisfy the birds’ behavioural needs. Additionally, the approaching 2016 ban on beak trimming has prompted a new urgency in improving laying hen conditions and management in order to minimise harmful feather pecking and cannibalistic behaviours. Defra has recently put out a call to further investigate and improve nestbox design, indicating that the current enrichments provided may not be adequate. Finally, birds of different ages and reproductive status may have different preferences for enrichment items and some items may need to be introduced to younger birds to be used effectively when older.
                                                            Furnished colony cages. http://www.bigdutchman.de
To investigate this, two batches of 48 birds, 24 pullets and 24 hens, were brought into the Avian Science Research Centre and presented with three enrichment treatments or a control (based on industry standards) in three-day blocks for three weeks, based on a Latin Square Design. The enrichments were provided in addition to minimum standards and consisted of an ‘ideal’ wooden nest box with straw bedding, a sandbox for scratching and dust bathing, or a hanging cabbage for foraging and pecking. Hanging string was also provided as standard to gauge usage. Behavioural data was recorded using a combination of focal and scan sampling. Location of eggs laid and feather scoring were also used as an indirect method of measuring nest box preference and feather pecking prevalence respectively.  
Additional enrichments in the birds’ enclosures should provide them with more to do in their environment, leaving less time available for harmful behaviours. Providing items that will satisfy behavioural needs, such as foraging and nesting, is thus, far the best route to decreasing feather pecking, aggression and cannibalistic behaviour in commercial systems.
This study will give indications of what modifications or additional enrichment items can be used to improve bird welfare in production systems and will be a good starting point for larger, industry-based studies where the practical use of these items can be better assessed. 
I have greatly enjoyed my time at Auchincruive so far and am grateful to the ASRC team for all their support and for the help and guidance received from R(D)SVS staff and the WPSA poultry award.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

The Inaugural Animal Behaviour & Welfare Elective has started.

The JMICAWE is delighted to run the first Final Year Elective in Animal Behaviour and Welfare for our undergraduate BVM&S students, here at the R(D)SVS.

Developed in response to student demand, the elective covers clinical animal behaviour, welfare assessment and learning theory across a range of species. Regular field trips give students context and insight into animal use in different industries, and students are also required to study and develop practical welfare assessment frameworks for their allocated projects.

The elective is designed to give veterinary students a unique insight into the breadth and depth of animal welfare science and clinical animal behaviour, helping them to recognise and address animal welfare and behavioural problems in practice and industry.

Penguin Encloser at Edinburgh Zoo - one of the field trips arrranged for our students.

Remembering why the basics are so important - a visit to four animal shelters in China

A Blog Posting from animal behaviour and welfare consultant – Jenna Kiddie
I was very lucky to have had the opportunity in April to visit four animal shelters, three independently-run and one government-run, in China with JMICAWE's vet, Heather Bacon and veterinary nurse, Hayley Walters. Having worked with several UK welfare charities I am familiar with the UK shelter model where dogs are kept in pens, singly, in pairs or in small groups. Therefore, it was perhaps slightly surprising  to be met at the entrance to the three independently run shelters by free-roaming dogs of all shapes, sizes and levels of mobility. Many of the small, paraplegic and friendly dogs are allowed free reign within the shelter boundaries and although an unusual sight to someone used to seeing dogs housed in kennels, all of the dogs looked content with their situation: they had free access to a range of environments, had space to move around in, they were able to explore and interact with a range of other dogs but with the opportunity to avoid them if they chose. This was perhaps in contrast to the welfare of the dogs that were not allowed to free roam and were kept in large groups in relatively small pens in all four shelters. This overcrowding meant that not all of the dogs had access to beds, and competition over access to food was evident.
Overcrowding is therefore a huge welfare problem for the animals kept in these shelters and is likely to exacerbate the consequences of a lack of biosecurity. Although two of the independent shelters do quarantine new dogs for one month to monitor for signs of rabies and to desex the males, as well as running annual rabies vaccine programmes for all dogs in their care, this focus on rabies is perhaps done as a result of the concern for human safety rather than dog welfare as there were several dogs showing signs of other infectious but preventable diseases such as canine distemper virus. Interestingly though, one of the independent shelters that followed these protocols had a significantly and surprisingly much smaller number of sick dogs, in fact only one of the dogs that we saw appeared to be showing signs of infectious disease. However, as we were guided around the shelter, and were not shown the whole site we were unable to determine whether the sick dogs were kept out of sight in order to encourage public funding or whether they were actually  receiving much superior care compared to the other shelters.  Appropriate isolation of infectious animals was not evident at the other shelters, perhaps because of a lack of knowledge or a lack of facilities.
However, despite a lack of resources and knowledge of specific welfare concerns , the dogs were obviously cared for in the independently run shelters, with all of the staff and volunteers showing compassion for their wards. Unfortunately, this same compassion was not evident in the government run shelter where policeman had been posted to the job. This lack of compassion led to additional welfare concerns including fear of punishment and aversive handling techniques. Indifference to the dogs' welfare also meant that what limited medical care and other welfare needs provided for at the independently run shelters was less likely in the government run shelter.
By identifying the various welfare, management, facilities and ethical concerns at the different types of shelter, organisations like JMICAWE are in a perfect position to facilitate animal carers to improve their knowledge of shelter management with respect to animal welfare and the knowledge gathered during  these visits can help structure future education programmes.

Veterinary Education Conference, China - April 2013

Veterinary Education conference
Nanjing Agricultural University 1st – 2nd April 2013

The two day conference was held at the HanYuan Hotel of the NJAU and attended by 20 Academic staff from 19 Universities around China. Mr Jia Zili from Chinese Veterinary Medicine Association and Chen Yuchi from LABOKLIN laboratory services also attended. Four University of Edinburgh staff were involved in delivering the lectures and practical sessions.

·         The meeting lasted for two full days and provided opportunities to discuss issues of animal use in research and teaching as well as promoting the innovative teaching techniques, problem-solving and critical-thinking techniques necessary to strengthen veterinary education in China.
·         The need for animal welfare across all clinical and preclinical teaching was continually emphasised.
·         Particularly successful were practical sessions introducing computer-based learning technologies, and non-animal models as alternatives to animals in teaching.

Delegates discussed and presented on ethical and welfare issues relating to clinical case management

Interactive discussions led to creative solutions

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

We are deeply saddened to announce the death of Madame Jeanne Marchig, who passed away on May 2nd

Jeanne founded the Marchig Animal Welfare Trust in 1986 in memory of her late husband. Through the Trust she has supported many animal welfare projects and organizations, not only in the UK, but throughout the world, including the veterinary care and treatment of animals in developing countries, re-homing programmes for companion animals, the care, protection and rehabilitation of wildlife and educational and campaigning work against the inhumane treatment of animals. In 2010, the University of Edinburgh awarded Jeanne the Honorary Degree of Doctor honoris causa, 
“in recognition of her outstanding global contribution
to animal welfare and animal welfare education”.
For the R(D)SVS, Jeanne will be best known for her generous and forward thinking support in funding the establishment of the Jeanne Marchig International Centre for animal welfare education. Her vision was that the Centre would form an integral part of the University of Edinburgh’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies (RDSVS) creating a focal point for animal welfare education across the globe, collaborating with international partners to improve understanding of animal welfare issues and engaging with politicians, governments and professional organisations with the aim of improving animal welfare and promoting alternatives to the use of animals in education and research.
In an interview following the official opening of the Centre in May 2011, Jeanne said, "Vets are at the core of safeguarding animal welfare and through the Centre, they will be provided with the skills necessary to enable their voices to be heard in order to ensure that animals across the world are free from distress, suffering and hunger." Indeed Jeanne’s passion for animals and tireless work towards improving their welfare will be missed by all who knew her, but we can take comfort in knowing that she was proud of the work achieved since the establishment of the Animal Welfare Centre at the Dick Vet, and she regarded it as her lasting legacy.
The Principal of the University, Sir Timothy O’Shea, has asked that flags be flown at half-mast across the University on Friday, the day of Madame Marchig’s funeral.

Professor David Argyle, Head of School said “Madame Jeanne Marchig was an important figure in global animal welfare and her legacy will be one of improved education and training around the world. We were proud to partner with the Marchig Animal Welfare Trust to open the Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare Education and its work will continue to make a difference across the world”.

Professor Nat Waran, Director of the Jeanne Marchig International Animal Welfare Centre at the Dick Vet said “We will miss Jeanne and her unwavering passion for improving the lives of animals through her many projects, but we are proud to have been trusted to continue her work through the international animal welfare centre, inspired by Jeanne's vision to improve the quality of life for all animals through education, training and by influencing policy at the highest level.“

More information about the centre can be found at:


Thursday, 2 May 2013

New PBL approach to veterinary teaching in southern Indian Veterinary Schools.

Title: Embedding a Problem Based learning approach to teaching animal welfare to veterinary students in southern Indian Vet Schools.

Following three extremely successful British Council sponsored animal welfare education and problem based learning workshops facilitated by animal health and welfare lecturers from the R(D)SVS, and hosted by the Kerala Veterinary and Animal Science University, JMICAWE’s Prof Nat Waran returned to join representatives from each of the workshops to hold a ‘wrap-up’ symposium.

Over the two days at the end of April 2013, KVASU Faculty members were joined by their Deans and the Vice Chancellor, Dr Ashok to showcase what they had learned and how they planned to implement the approach, to an audience of 50 academics including VC Dr. V. Prabhakar Rao of Sri Venkateswara Veterinary University in Andhra Pradesh and Deans from Bangalore Veterinary School as well as Directors of local research institutes from the South of India.

There were a number of key presentations including one on ‘Future Proofing Veterinary Education’ and another on ‘Humane and responsible use of animals in research and teaching’, given by Prof Nat Waran, as well as stimulating presentations given by representatives from each of the three workshops.

The meeting ended on a high point, with a clear commitment from a number of other vet school faculty Deans to hold further workshops involving the JMICAWE in collaboration with the KVASU faculty staff, to share best practice in teaching methodologies and in the delivery of animal health and welfare knowledge and skills, to staff, working within these other Universities.  

Educating veterinary students in Asia - a unique collaboration between JMICAWE, Animals Asia and Nanjing Agricultural University.

In April this year veterinary surgeon Heather Bacon and veterinary nurse Hayley Walters, of the JMICAWE team, flew with clinical animal behaviourist Dr Jenna Kiddie to the Nanjing Agricultural University in China to deliver a week-long neutering workshop to the final year veterinary students there. The workshop was a unique collaboration between JMICAWE, Animals Asia and Nanjing Agricultural University.

As with all surgical training for veterinary teaching, the welfare of the animal is paramount. Prior to the workshop commencing, all parties involved worked together to ensure that the training workshops would only be carried out on animals that legitimately require surgery. Thanks to the hard work of all 3 partners in the project, the training workshop was successfully located to the local, police run dog shelter, where there was a genuine need for neutering to be done.

The shelter, known as the PSB (Public Security Bureau,) collects stray dogs from the streets of Nanjing and dogs deemed dangerous to society and holds them there either for life or until they are rehomed. Most of the dogs aren’t neutered and breeding occurs in the mixed sex groups, so this was a win-win situation for the dogs, the shelter and the students.

The week began with a series of lectures in surgical techniques, anaesthesia, analgesia, patient care, street dog population management, shelter management, ethics and welfare and then progressed to practical, hands on clinical skills workshop. During this time the students were able to use models and manikins to practise their clinical skills on such as suturing, ligature tying, IV cannula placement and intubation under the guidance of staff from JMICAWE and Animals Asia. This offered the students the time to learn and perfect their techniques before going near a live animal.

Qualified veterinary staff instructed and demonstrated techniques to acquaint students with the various clinical processes, and then the supervised students took on the roles of anaesthetist, surgeon and in-patient carer, following their patients through the different clinical processes. This practical, reality-based training is completely different from the usual approach to veterinary clinical training in China, where dogs are purchased by universities and used by the students to practise a range of unnecessary surgical procedures, without appropriate analgesia.

The student’s reaction to the course was extremely positive and the JMICAWE team were pleased with the obvious improvement in students’ skills and knowledge.

“It’s important to remember that training workshops or TNR programmes must never just be about teaching surgical skills, or controlling a population.” said Hayley Walters of the JMICAWE. “Each of the patients is a sentient being that is feeling scared, anxious, confused and lonely. Each patient is capable of feeling pain, suffering from inadequate anaesthesia and, worse still, death due to poor surgical technique and a lack of knowledge or experience.  Whilst teaching the students we were very keen to ensure that they not only learned about surgical procedures but that the welfare of the animal goes hand in hand with this.”

Delivering Animal Welfare Education as part of the WSPA Key Driver Programme in Taiwan

The JMICAWE’s Professor Nat Waran is returning from Taipei after being invited by WSPA to attend their 'key drivers' conference. The Annual World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) meeting was sponsored by the Taiwanese Governments NGO Affairs committee, Taipei City Animal Protection Office and the Life, Welfare and Environmental Quality Association, and took place over two days at the start of May.

Professor Waran gave presentations on how to provide 'training in the scientific and practical assessment of animal welfare' and also how to 'use problem based learning for delivering animal welfare education to veterinary students in Asia'.

The conference was attended by academics from vet schools in Vietnam, India, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, China and South Korea.

During the conference, 15 academics working as ‘key drivers’ for animal welfare education within their vet schools were gathered to discover and discuss approaches to teaching animal welfare, new information about animal welfare science & ethics and continuing professional development (CPD) for veterinarians.

The opportunity to share best practice and experiences as well as discussing the use of innovative teaching and research tools was extremely valuable for all attendees, and will go a long way towards developing animal welfare awareness amongst the veterinary profession in Asia.