The BVA 2017 Animal Welfare Foundation Discussion Forum

By Meg Rawlins, RVC

Monday 5th June marked the 4th BVA Animal Welfare Foundation Discussion Forum.  With promise of great debate on some interesting animal welfare topics by world-renowned experts, a House of Commons reception after, discounted student tickets and food- who wouldn’t attend? I jumped at the chance to go.

There were three sessions throughout the day, the first being ‘Is modern life incompatible with pet ownership?’. Discussing how modern lifestyle are potentially conflicting with the 5-animal welfare needs and how we can combat this, focusing on dogs and cats. The main welfare issues facing both species were covered and there were many interesting questions brought up by the audience; including how we could combat public's perceptions of brachycephalic breeds and how this was an issue in not only dogs but cats also, as well as questioning how we could educate the population about current animal welfare issues.

The second session, and my favourite of the day; ‘Are vets failing our horses’ prompted the most conflicting viewpoints.  It covered the topics of when geriatric equine medicine has gone too far, how to approach euthanasia and the controversial issue of whether we are pushing our sport horses too far. People questioned the ethical issues surrounding horse racing, different methods of euthanasia in equids and what can be done to improve the welfare of horses used for sport.

The final session explored the future of animal welfare. The first half was ‘On the Pulse’ and was all about animal establishment licensing. This was something which I admittedly knew very little on, but the discussion was engaging and informative. The speakers spoke about the regulation of licensing for animal establishments, what improvements could be made and the impact of loss of funding for local authorities.  In the next part of the session, projects funded by the Animal Welfare Foundation were presented. The first was research exploring advisory and communication strategies used by cattle veterinarians and discussed something called ‘motivational interviewing’ which I recommend you to research and try and apply! The second research project was all about improving the assessment of lameness in sheep, something which I personally found extremely relevant as it related to my current university module.

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After a short break, we were then invited to attend what had been described as a ‘legendary’ reception in the House of Commons terrace. Whilst saddened that no MPs could be in the building due to the upcoming election, I was excited to meet an array of professionals all with the same common goal; improving animal welfare. The opening speech by Gudrun kicked off the reception to a great start and I had a fun evening of networking whilst consuming the seemingly unlimited amount of drinks and veggie samosas. I was amazed that I was the only student who attended the reception as it was a great opportunity!

I had a fantastic day and learnt a lot and will try to attend next year’s event (if my rotation schedule allows!). I recommend to anyone reading who has an interest in animal welfare to go next year!

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