Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Dr Fritha Langford - part of the Ig Nobel Prize Winning team

Congratulations go to JMICAWE’s Dr Fritha Langford, for being a member of the winning SRUC team that won the 2013 Ig Nobel prize for Probability.

The Ig Nobel awards are for ‘Science that makes you laugh, then makes you think’. The study in question carried out at Scotland's Rural College (SRUC) farms analysed whether the length of time a cow stands up affects the likelihood of it lying down.

Fritha said: “We used pedometer-like sensors attached to the legs of dairy and beef cattle and used the recordings from these to analyse the patterns of cow behaviour. As we shed light on cow behaviour patterns we can then apply this to help pick up potential problems and improve cattle health and welfare”

The team expected to find that, as the cows became increasingly tired due to standing, they would become more likely to lie down. In fact, they found cows that had been standing for six hours were as likely to lie down within the following 15 minutes as cows that had been standing for one hour. In addition, some cows spent much more time standing than others. While the reasons for these variations were not clear, the project identified a scientific methodology for understanding patterns of activity and validated the use of the sensors as a good way to remotely collect behaviour patterns in large numbers of cattle at the same time.

Dr Tolkamp travelled to America to receive the award on Thursday while Dr Roberts will attend the European Ig Nobel Night on Saturday in the Netherlands.

The team celebrated their win when everyone was back together this week.  

 The winning paper can be seen here: Tolkamp, B. J.; Haskell, M. J.; Langford, F. M.; Roberts, D. J.; Morgan, C. A. (2010). "Are cows more likely to lie down the longer they stand?".

Animal Welfare Education Stand proves a great hit with students!

The JMICAWE team ran the Animal Welfare Education interactive stand at the Animal Welfare Showcase event held by SRUC on October the 4th.
Here, the team were able to demonstrate the range of tools that we use for increasing knowledge and understanding of animal welfare worldwide.
The demonstrations included the life-size Dystocia cow and calf, designed to help teach veterinary and animal science students how best to help in difficult cattle births prior to meeting the real thing in the field.
We also were able to show our range of manikins and models to aide teaching of clinical skills and animal handling in the veterinary surgery.
Alongside these physical models, we demonstrated computer based learning materials developed by the Animal Welfare Indicators (AWIN) project that have been built to disseminate animal welfare science to many different audiences, from veterinary students to farmers and other stakeholders.  
Throughout the day the stand was busy with visitors including students from all SRUC campuses, farmers, scientists and industry bodies.


Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Professor Hartung visits Easter Bush Campus - 28 October

We are delighted to announce that Prof Thomas Hartung will be visiting Easter Bush Campus at the end of October.

As part of his visit he will be delivering a presentation on 28 October at 13.30hrs in the Roslin Institute Building. This talk will also be recorded for our online students to access at a later time.

Thomas Hartung, MD, PhD

Thomas Hartung , MD, PhD, is Professor of Toxicology (Chair for Evidence-based Toxicology), Pharmacology, Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at The Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, and University of Konstanz, Germany; he also is Director of their Centers for Alternatives to Animal Testing (CAAT, with the portal AltWeb ( CAAT hosts the secretariat of the

Evidence-based Toxicology Collaboration ( and the industry refinement working group. As PI, he heads the Human Toxome project funded as an NIH Transformative Research Grant. He is the former Head of the European Center for the Validation of Alternative Methods (ECVAM), Ispra, Italy. He has authored more than 370 scientific publications.

Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing (CAAT)


Animal alternatives used in teaching attract interest from Scottish horse owners

After the popular open evening held in the Spring, the British Horse Society Scotland requested another opportunity for their members to have the opportunity to understand more about the Dick Vet’s approach to teaching the new generation of veterinarians, using innovative teaching models alongside state of the art practical facilities.
Fifty members of the Scottish horse owning public attended an evening of talks and a guided tour of the equine hospital and facilities and had the opportunity to consider the range of services available to them if their horses ever need them. Professor Nat Waran introduced the event and spoke of the commitment to high standards of animal health and welfare which the RDSVS is so proud of, and the establishment of the Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare Education as an integrated part of the Vet school’s work.
Gemma Pearson demonstrated the advanced teaching that could be achieved through the vet school’s investment in animal models and manikins that allow students to learn and practice clinical skills before they experience the ‘real thing’. The new full size horse model has been made so that staff can show students the anatomy of the horse and how different types of abdominal pain can be investigated, as well as allowing them to develop their sense of feel.
Dr John Keen, Head of the Equine Hospital gave an informative overview of the specialist equipment and services available through the RDSVS and through the guided tour, enabled horse owners to see how their horse would be managed if they needed expert care.
Finally the audience were given an interesting talk by Gemma on the use of humane and evidence based approaches for dealing with common problems with equine behaviour.
BHS members were extremely positive about the evening, with one saying, ‘ its really good to be able to see how Edinburgh’s Dick vet school trains their vet students using the latest technology as well as providing them with a positive learning environment so that they really do develop an awareness for their role in protecting the health and the welfare of our horses’.


Rehoming a rescue dog – the highs and lows

As many of you will remember veterinary surgeon Heather Bacon and veterinary nurse Hayley Walters spent their annual leave in a dog rescue shelter in Nakom Phanom in Thailand earlier this year. They were helping to treat over 2,000 dogs that had been rescued from the meat trade industry and were being illegally transported to Vietnam.

The conditions in the shelter were harrowing with many dogs dying of distemper, parvo virus and, more sadly, starvation as competition for food was fierce.
Many dogs that had collapsed from starvation were hospitalised and it was whilst treating the sick dogs in the hospital that Heather and Hayley met two little dogs, which they would eventually bring back to Scotland, they named Mothi and Stewart.

Rescue dogs need us. There are more dogs in shelters than there are people who want dogs. And dogs are sent to shelters for a whole variety of reasons; unwanted puppies, strays roaming the streets, relationship break ups, new baby arrivals, behavioural problems, financial reasons…there are countless explanations of why a dog might end up sitting in a concrete kennel waiting to be part of a family again. It is na├»ve to think that when you rehome a rescue dog it will slip seamlessly into your life and require very little effort from you to make it feel loved and secure. These dogs can come with a whole host of behavioural problems that may have been previously unnoticed by the kennel staff and Stewart was no different!
With a happy disposition and an incredible ability to get every dog and human he meets to like him, Stewart is a joy to own and walk. He is bomb proof. Having grown up on the streets of Thailand, but I suspect semi owned as he loves people, Stewart was exposed to an enormous array of situations and at a very young age. He shows no fear of loud noises, rumbling lorries, motorbikes, big dogs bounding towards him, children, gangs of people, cats etc (although he is a bit wary of donkeys!) so in one respect he is a dream dog. He is also very clever and quick to learn in training sessions, probably as a result of coming from a long line of quick and clever dogs that survived on the streets for long enough to reproduce. ‘Be fast or you won’t last!’ However what he isn’t…. is confident that he won’t be abandoned again and Stewart suffers from separation anxiety. This manifests itself mainly as crying and howling and, more expensively, chewing. Mostly my flat door but he’s had other things as well. This is of course a massive inconvenience to me as it means I will have to eventually pay for the door to be repaired and I am barely able to go out without him but that is not the point. The point is this little dog suffers terribly every time I leave him alone, even if it is just for 5 minutes.

When we take on a rescue dog we must appreciate that they had a whole life before us and we must take the time to understand WHY they do what they do that we find so undesirable. Whether it be aggression toward other dogs, food guarding, howling, door chewing, house soiling, growling at children, carpet digging or constant barking there WILL be a reason for it. As the new owner it is up to us to seek professional help from a veterinary surgeon and/or a canine behaviourist and get these problems treated. It takes time, consistency and hard work and it is often frustrating but it WILL get better if you persevere.
Getting a puppy from a good breeder is always a safer option. You know the dog’s history, the parent’s history, you know how big it will get, what characteristics to expect and you can mould it to exactly how you want it to be. If you get a rescue dog from a shelter then you potentially open yourself up to a lot of extra work. But if you go into rescuing a dog with your eyes wide open, a lot of patience, love and an understanding that many of these dogs are damaged, then you will be more prepared and you will have done a wonderful thing. Rescue dogs make the best pets because they, as anthropomorphic as I’m going to sound, are always that little bit more grateful to be part of a family again.

A great start for our MSc AABAW students

Our 30 new MSc Applied Animal Behaviour and Animal Welfare students are here and have started the Programme.  They have had lots of interesting sessions already and have started their group projects at Edinburgh Zoo.  They are studying Sun Bears, Red River Hogs, Lesser Kudu and more.

We've also had a one night residential where we all got to know each a bit better, did lovely walks, cooked together and even sang songs round a campfire with one of our students playing the ukulele.  A great start!



Zoos - Arks for the future?

Staff at the JMICAWE believe firmly in engaging with all types of industry to promote animal welfare  through education, and influencing policy and practise. This applies even to industries that are sometimes controversial, such as zoos.

Its important to remember that many zoo staff are dedicated to the care of their animals, and this September the carnivore keeping team at the Copenhagen zoo hosted a Carnivore Welfare Seminar. Speaking on topics including veterinary care, enrichment planning, and nutrition, JMICAWE veterinary surgeon Heather Bacon was delighted to see some of the progress made in the Copenhagen zoo in terms of animal enrichment, operant conditioning and the openness of zoo staff to discuss problems and deliver to their animals the best care that they could.

Heather also attended last week’s meeting of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, where she presented on her current research into a needs analysis, and development of animal welfare education for zoo keepers.

The meeting highlighted a number of conservation and welfare issues facing the zoo industry including reproductive problems and low breeding rates, and the negative impact of the zoo industry on conservation through illegal wildlife trade. Chris Shepherd of the Wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic, delivered a number of presentations highlighting conservation issues relating to trade across a range of species. This includes the purchase of wild-caught animals from fake ‘captive-breeding’ farms in South East Asia, by EU zoos.

Dr Barbara Mabel of the University of Glasgow presented on a similar theme, highlighting how molecular genetics had indicated the wild-caught origins of many African wild dogs in captivity in the EU, and  recommended against further importation of African Wild dogs from South Africa to boost European stocks, due to the lack of transparency on the dogs’ heritage, and the potential impact on wild populations.

Whilst it is very positive to see the steps being taken by zoos across Europe to invest in greater animal welfare training for their staff, and to implement positive practises to improve the quality of life of captive wild animals, it is important that the keeping of wild animals in captivity is justified and meets minimum conservation and husbandry requirements. Zoos may try to provide the best welfare possible for the animals they house, but if their presence supports animals being traded from the wild, even if through covert, illegal channels, then the welfare of the individuals going through that process will always be severely compromised. It is imperative that transparent and traceable systems are employed by zoos to minimise their impact on free-ranging wildlife populations, and to ensure the welfare of animals within the zoo industry.


Copenhagen zoo animal welfare discussion forum