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Fifty Years of Animal Welfare Celebrated at SRUC

Published Wednesday, 14th October 2015 in Veterinary Services news

Older piglets suckling

The importance of animal welfare was highlighted by the team at Scotland’s Rural College at their Animal Welfare Day celebrating 50 years since the Brambell Report.

Over 200 delegates signed up for the event – organised by Professor Cathy Dwyer and colleagues – which saw a host of scientists discussing the "five freedoms" of animal welfare, which were inspired by the report all those years ago. The five freedoms are; freedom from hunger and thirst, freedom from discomfort, freedom from pain, injury and disease, freedom to express normal behaviour and freedom from fear and distress. 

The event’s morning session saw speakers tackling each of these key freedoms, both through a general explanation of the area and more specific research on the topic.

The first freedom was represented by SRUC’s Dr Rick D’Eath and Roslin’s Dr Ian Dunn. Rick spoke about the difficulty of managing the diet of captive animals and his theme of restricted diet continued with Ian’s talk on research which considering how to make broiler breeder chickens birds feel fuller.

The "freedom from discomfort" was covered by Dr Marie Haskell, Dr Malcolm Mitchell and Dr Fritha Langford who spoke about stress caused by changes in temperature and the importance (for dairy cows in this instance) of having a comfortable space to lie down in.

Both Dr Kenny Rutherford (SRUC) and Professor Eddie Clutton (Dick Vet) touched on the concept of pain memory in their discussion of the third freedom, with Eddie noting that most farm animal pain can be managed although due to cost and labour challenges it is at times neglected, as Kenny illustrated with a slide on treatment of lameness in livestock.

Dr Emma Baxter spoke about how farm animals might be allowed more freedom to perform natural behaviours while still remaining productive while Professor Francoise Wemelsfelder perhaps had the simplest message of the day; animals are sentient beings (something that has been acknowledged in law) and that recognition is key to animal welfare.

Finally, SRUC’s Dr Simon Turner and Roslin’s Dr Paula Brunton tackled fear and distress with Simon noting that it is the relationship between human and animal that is often at the heart of this issue; good stockpeople can make a real difference.

Over lunch delegates were able to find out more about the work going on at Roslin, Scotland’s Rural College and partner organisations such as the Dick Vet. As well as having a (pretend) cow bottom to play with, visitors could also view themselves on the thermal imaging camera and find out more about some of the kit vet students use to learn their trade.

In the afternoon Professor Alistair Lawrence chaired a Question Time session with Pete Goddard, Wild Animal Welfare Committee, Cindy Milburn from the International Fund for Animal Welfare and Colin Macaldowie, Deputy Chief Vet, Scottish Government. There was a huge range of questions from the audience, from the philosophical (how can you breed compassion in the absense of morality or meaning?) to the practical; why is there not more enforcement of animal welfare laws?

For those who missed the day, the morning presentations can be viewed on youtube.The event was funded by the Scottish Government’s strategic research programme.

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