Wednesday, 14 December 2016
JMICAWE & SRUC in India
JMICAWE has recently been involved in visits and workshops in New Delhi, India. Our new Director Professor Cathy Dwyer and Dr Marie Haskell visited Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in late November. Both Universities are engaged in developing animal welfare education opportunities for students in India. There are currently no university degrees covering animal welfare in India, and veterinary students receive only a few hours of training in animal welfare. We will be working with both Universities to help them develop teaching materials to address this issue. Whilst at IGNOU Cathy recorded a radio interview, for broadcast as part of the course on IGNOU’s dedicated radio channel, and both Cathy and Marie gave seminars on animal welfare and animal cognition at JNU attended by students, faculty and NGOs. This led to a lively debate on current welfare issues in India, particularly issues with stray dogs and stray cows.
Cathy and Marie were then joined by SRUC scientists, Laura Dixon and Fritha Langford, to host a 2-day workshop at the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) on 1-2 December. We discussed concepts in animal welfare, the need for an evidence-based approach to animal welfare assessment and provided training in animal welfare science methods. This involved a ‘hands on’ session where the thermal imaging equipment sparked much hilarity about who was the coolest! After the workshop we spent a day visiting the ICAR dairy research centre to hear about some of the behaviour projects they are beginning to carry out there, and to discuss future collaborations. We are looking forward to hearing the outcomes of the cognition tests for buffalo calves!
We concluded the visit by a trip to a ‘gaushala’ which provides a home for non-productive stray cows. Cows are sacred to the Hindu religion, and Indian law prohibits the culling of cows. However, this means that elderly or non-productive animals are often left to roam the streets. Gaushalas collect these cows from the streets and volunteers work to worship and take care of them. We were greeted with garlands of marigolds, and took part in a ceremony to honour the cows with jaggery (palm sugar) and some ceremonial cleaning of the stables (in which we participated a little too enthusiastically in sweeping up). The visits ended with prayers in the shrine and a blessing from an old lady who has dedicated her life to worshipping cows.