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!