Friday, 28 June 2013

Heather Bacon of the JMICAWE contributes to important world wide policy development to help alleviate the suffering of animals used in tourism

Last week saw several positive developments in the welfare of wild and exotic animals. At a meeting on Animal Welfare, law and enforcement in Brussels, supported by the Federation of Vets of Europe, Born Free, Vier Pfoten, and Humane Society International, a number of issues relating to the welfare of exotic animals in zoos, circuses and trade were discussed. Member States attended to share their experiences in regulating the types of exotic species that could be kept in private ownership through the development of ‘positive lists’ as in Belgium and the Netherlands, Austria shared their experiences of banning wild animals in travelling circuses, and representatives from the European Alliance of Rescue centres and Sanctuaries, discussed the conservation and welfare implications of the illegal pet trade with particular reference to the endangered Barbary macaque – an entirely unsuitable species to be kept as a pet. Knowledge and experiences were shared and approaches to zoo inspectorate development discussed. In particular, the need for EU legislation on Animal Welfare across the region was highlighted by various member states, and across Europe there appears to be a growing demand and focus on regulation relating to captive wild animals.

This growing awareness also displays some global impact, with the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) launching their ‘Global guidance on animal in tourism’. This series of documents, on which Heather of the JMICAWE advised, covers animal use in a range of different tourism scenarios and provides guidance for tour operators on what is and is not, acceptable practice within the tourist industry.

We are pleased that we have been able contribute to the development of such an important policy that will help to alleviate the suffering of animals used in tourism around the world.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Animal Models and the Dynamics of Biomedicine

Animal models have long played a key role in biomedical research, impacting on the nature of laboratory practices, regulation and governance, and – ultimately – the kinds of knowledge about health and illness that scientists can produce. At the same time, the use of animals in research continues to attract public debate, and organisations like the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs) are sponsored by the UK Research Councils, the Wellcome Trust and industry to support initiatives that will reduce, refine and replace the numbers of animals involved. The challenges and opportunities of this for biomedicine have been extensively debated, but there is a dearth of empirical, social science research that takes as its focus the everyday activities of scientists at the ‘coal face’.
Dr Martyn Pickersgill, a sociologist in the Centre for Population Health Sciences, has recently been awarded sponsorship from the Moray Endowment to undertake research on ‘Animal Models and the Dynamics of Biomedicine’. This project is situated at the interface between the disciplines of science and technology studies (STS), medical sociology, and empirical bioethics. It uses qualitative focus groups with researchers employing animal models in the study of biological processes (human and non-human), in order to generate discussion about the changing use of animals in research and the ethical and scientific decision-making involved. Part of Pickersgill’s wider research programme on the social and ethical dimensions of science and medicine, the study aims to cast new light on the means by which regulatory structures, moral discourse, and scientific questions come together to shape the nature of biomedical innovation.

Monday, 17 June 2013

University of Edinburgh's Animal Welfare Symposium - held in the Chancellor’s Building on the 5th June

As part of the ongoing work of the local Animal Welfare Committee, the 2nd Animal Welfare Symposium was held in the Chancellor’s Building on the 5th June in collaboration with the Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare Education.
The event -sponsored by Laboratory Animals Ltd.- was a success, with over a 100 delegates, including animal technicians, scientists, lab animal vets and Home Office Inspectors. The programme covered aspects of all the 3Rs.

Dr. Nichola Brydges (Edinburgh University) discussed animal emotions and the challenges involved in assessing affective state in rodents. She presented her own work on cognitive bias, a test which measures “optimistic” vs. “pessimistic” choices when presented with an ambiguous stimulus.
The next speaker, Dr. Will Shu (Heriot Watt University) described his ongoing programme of work to develop engineered liver tissues using human embryonic stem cells and 3D printing technology, as a potential alternative for toxicology testing.

A former Home Office Chief Inspector, Dr.Derek Fry, provided an excellent overview of experimental design principles, common mistakes and assumptions. Particularly useful was the discussion on different types of experimental design and how they impact on reduction and refinement.

Prof. Dominic Wells (Royal Veterinary College) summarised the techniques and welfare implications of the most commonly used genotyping and identification methods in GA mice. His talk concluded with a lively discussion on welfare issues associated with methods of early identification, which contributed to the participative atmosphere of the day.

The Symposium was brought to a close with the presentation of the Laboratory Animal Welfare and Alternatives Prize, awarded by The Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare Education. This year there were 6 outstanding entries split over the two categories for the best poster, presented by an animal technician or a scientist, describing innovations in the context of replacement and animal welfare.

For the animal technician category the £ 500 Prize was awarded to two technicians for their poster describing work on improving animal welfare by making use of non-invasive techniques to detect oestrous in rats. The technique has a clear potential as a refinement over other methods and is particularly useful for reducing the number of animals that are used. The winner in the scientist category presented work describing a significant reduction technique developed for use in mice used in laboratories. The tetraploid complementation assay results in up to a third of the number of mice used.

Congratulations to the prize winners and many thanks to all sponsors and organisers for a very successful event.


China Agricultural University (CAU) - making a difference.

During the last week of May, Hayley Walters and Heather Bacon of the JMICAWE travelled to the China Agricultural University (CAU), China’s premier veterinary school, in Beijing.

Invited by Dr Jin of the surgical teaching team, they trained staff and students in the use of alternatives to animals in surgical training. Dr Jin has already made excellent progress in this area – reducing the numbers of dogs and rabbits used for elective surgical training in his course from 80 to 18 each year. In addition to improved clinical training experiences in suturing, ligature-tying, anaesthesia and pain assessment, we also discussed wider applications of animal welfare and its application across the veterinary curriculum. The trip was made possible due to travel funding and materials donation by Animals Asia.

As the number one veterinary school in China, CAU is well recognised as having excellent training facilities. It is hoped that through partnership with JMICAWE and the R(D)SVS, excellence in teaching animal welfare and its practical applications to the clinical environment may be integrated.

The teaching team (l-r) Hui Wang, Heather Bacon, Dr Aren Jin, Hayley Walters, with a range of models donated by Animals Asia

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

The next chapter for 2 little dogs - from Thailand to Edinburgh

After over 100 of you followed Heather Bacon and Hayley Walter's feedback report last week, after they arrived at the Soi Dog Foundation in Thailand, we thought you might like to know more about the work they are doing.

With humidity making working and sleeping uncomfortable, the girls have been working solidly on operating those needing surgery and providing food, comfort and cuddles to those who are recovering from the awful treatment they were subjected to. In recent days, they have gained enough trust with the community to be able to euthanise several dogs with severe disease, which is a huge relief. 

And thanks to mass vaccination, the daily mortality rates have reduced from 30 dogs per day at their arrival to approx 2 dogs per day now, so they're lucky to be leaving the dogs in good shape but many still desperately need help. 

Whilst the girls 'holiday' has come to an end and they head back to Scotland, they can leave knowing that their efforts made a huge difference to hundreds of dogs - especially two little ones!

Yes - following hot on their heels, and coming back to Edinburgh are Stewart (Hayley's light coloured dog) and Mothi (Heather's dark coloured dog)....and looking at the photos I think both dogs are delighted to be heading to Scotland!

We will definitely report on how Stewart and Mothi settle in, once they are through quarantine and settled in Scotland!

You can find out more by clicking this link - 20 dogs crammed into each cage - ready to go for eating or contact for more info.

Friday, 7 June 2013

2 members of Edinburgh University's JMICAWE Animal Welfare team help with Thai dog rescue.

This week JMICAWE's Heather Bacon and Hayley Walters have taken some annual leave - and have headed to Thailand for their holidays. However, they have no intention of enjoying the beautiful beaches, as they have decided to volunteer along with other veterinary trained staff from the UK, Asia and USA to assist at the Soi dog foundation in Thailand.

Based at the Animal Quarantine Center in Nakhon Phanom, north-east Thailand, just a few kilometres away from the mountains forming the border with Laos, JMICAWE veterinary outreach manager, Heather and animal welfare vet nurse Hayley have joined a team of dedicated volunteers who answered an SOS put out by the Soi Dogs Foundation last month.

All the volunteers from the Worldwide Veterinary Service, Animals Asia Foundation and the Humane Society International, are helping to deal with the thousands of dogs rescued from trucks and farms destined for the meat trade.

Read more about this hands-on welfare work and watch the CNN video including an interview with Hayley Walters -

Monday, 3 June 2013

Anna Brown, from our MSc AABAW program wins UFAW scholarship prize.

Anna gives us a summary of her dissertation activities
My project aims to reduce negative welfare impacts upon wild beavers involved within monitoring research, conducted by Telemark University College, Norway, in collaboration with the Royal Zoological Society Scotland.
Upon capture, wild beavers are ear tagged allowing for individual identification. However, these tags have highly variable retention rates. Without ear tags beavers require re-capture in order to be re-tagged, which is known to have negative welfare impacts across many wild species.
Firstly I want to identify the retention rate of each of the two tag types used. Secondly, from filming ear tag applications and post-tagging behaviour in the field, any signs of tag irritation can be recorded.
How my project could help to improve animal welfare
1.       I shall hopefully be able to identify a tag type which is both durable and has a minimal effect upon the beavers’ natural behavioural repertoire. In addition, upon selection and increased usage of a durable tag type, the need for re-capture can be reduced. Researchers can also save time by not having to chase down un-tagged beavers!

2.       With the potential re-introduction of beavers into the UK being a hot topic at the moment, my study results may be of use if beavers will one day require identification within the UK.

3.       Whilst monitoring typically aims to benefit a species as whole, individual animal welfare is also of importance. I also hope that my study can raise awareness of this theme, as I think individual animal welfare is often compromised within monitoring research.
What I have enjoyed about carrying out my project
I have really enjoyed learning about a species I have never studied, or even seen before. They are fascinating animals and I have been lucky to receive the opportunity to study them in their natural habitat!

Life as a student on our online MSc International Animal Welfare program

Written by Amber Barnes, a current MSc IAWEL student and winner of an Animal Welfare Trust grant.
I had been searching for a graduate program for some time when I came across the International Animal Welfare, Ethics and Law program (MSc IAWEL) at the University of Edinburgh. 
I was specifically looking for comprehensive courses  in animal welfare, geographical flexibility and rigorous standards that would challenge me and prepare me for a career in animal welfare.  I have found all this and more in the IAWEL program.  Any concerns I may have had about online study were quickly relieved as I have found it most engaging and inclusive.  Of course, managing time zones and personal commitments, such as work and family, has been difficult at times, but it has certainly been worth it.  Indeed managing these time zones and working in groups with students with diverse cultural backgrounds has only served to prepare me for a career in international animal welfare.
When I started the Masters program, I held a position as an adoptions specialist and community educator  at a local humane society, though my background is as varied as the animals with which I have worked. The information  provided in the Companion Animal Welfare course has proved most beneficial  as I am able to give the community reliable, up to date information on the needs of their companion animals and better manage the welfare of animals that come into the shelter.  
More recently, I received a grant from the Animal Welfare Trust  to work with the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries on welfare protocols, accrediting sanctuaries and placing displaced, retired or abused exotic animals, wildlife and equines into approved sanctuaries on a global level. In the first course of the MSc IAWEL; International Animal Welfare Science,  I became familiar both with creating welfare protocols and preparing research proposals . Possession of such knowledge  certainly  gave me an edge when preparing my grant application.
Additionally, the experience  of networking with other students and professionals from so many different areas in the world, makes me an ideal candidate for the position. Currently I am assisting a bear sanctuary in China in the accreditation process,  helping people in Israel place injured animals in sanctuaries and collaborating with professionals in the United Kingdom, the United States, and Turkey on  other animal placements.
I am certainly happy with my decision in choosing this program and look forward to what new information I will receive in the next year and how I will grow as a student and a professional.