Monday, 16 October 2017

JMICAWE contributes to WSAVA Animal Welfare guidelines

JMICAWE contributes to WSAVA Animal Welfare guidelines

JMICAWE vet Heather Bacon recently travelled to Bangkok to input into the development of the first World Small Animal Veterinary Association Animal Welfare Guidelines. The WSAVA is the global organisation for small animal vets and these guidelines will offer veterinary practitioners around the world guidance on dealing with common animal welfare issues and highlight the role and responsibilities of vets as advocates for good animal welfare.

“Vets have not always fully engaged with their role of protecting and enhancing animal welfare,” said Heather “Even in the UK and other developed countries this is still a challenge, and for low income nations, the challenges are magnified. The WSAVA guidelines will provide support for veterinary practitioners around the world to engage with animal welfare issues.”

The animal welfare guidelines will be launched at the WSAVA annual conference in 2018.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Celebrating Success in Animal Welfare on World Animal Day

Celebrating Success in Animal Welfare

JMICAWE co-sponsored, with SRUC, a day of talks, discussion and demonstrations of animal welfare research to mark World Animal Day on 4th October. The theme for the event was ‘Celebrating Success in Animal Welfare Science’, focusing on the achievements in improving animal welfare that have been realised over the last 50 years or so of active research in the area.

Of course there is still much to be done, but it is worth pausing to reflect on the achievements and improvements in the lives of animals that has occurred through the application of 50 years of animal welfare science,’ said Professor Cathy Dwyer, Director of JMICAWE, on opening the meeting.

Talks covered a range of topics including application of research to reduce confinement in pregnant, farrowing and lactating sows, cage-free systems for laying hens, developments in positive welfare, welfare of working equids, combining animal and human welfare improvements in sub-Saharan African small ruminant production and tickling rats. During lunch time there was an opportunity to learn more about the applications of new technology to assessing animal behaviour and welfare, and to visit the clinical skills labs at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies. The day was attended by over 200 students, staff and government, policy and NGO representatives. The feedback has been universally positive, with several actively anticipating the next event, and recordings of the presentations will be available via the JMICAWE website very soon. 

First UK Bear husbandry workshop a success

First UK Bear husbandry workshop a success

The Zoological Society of London recently held the first UK Bear Husbandry workshop focussed on improving understanding of zoo animal welfare and promoting good practice in modern bear husbandry and veterinary care.

JMICAWE vet Heather Bacon opened the workshop with a presentation on behaviour-based husbandry and also discussed geriatric care of bears – an incredibly long-lived species. Additional presentations were delivered by EAZA and Shape of Enrichment, all focussed on progressing understanding of zoo animal welfare and practical enrichment.

Heather said “Bears will survive even in very poor environments and in the 1980s UK zoos recognised that managing bears in these older exhibits was no longer acceptable, however with recent investments in enclosure design the UK zoo bear population is increasing and this workshop is a great opportunity for keepers from around the UK to exchange expertise about modern bear husbandry techniques.”

Heather has extensive experience with bears having worked with a range of bear species around the world over the past 10 years.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

DMZAA incorporates module on animal welfare and ethics

DMZAA incorporates module on animal welfare and ethics

The Diploma in the Management of Zoo and Aquarium Animals was established by the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquaria and Sparsholt College in 2012 and has become the national UK qualification for zookeepers.

Over recent years the organisers have noted an increasing interest in in animal welfare and ethical issues from student zookeepers and in 2016 reached out to the JMICAWE to develop a new module on Animal welfare and ethics for zoo keepers. Led by Heather Bacon of the JMICAWE and Douglas Richardson of the Highland Wildlife Park the new module will be compulsory study for all UK zookeepers from 2017 and forms a core part of the DMZAA teaching.

“Animal welfare has not traditionally formed part of the core training of UK zoo keepers,” said Heather “It is incredibly exciting to see BIAZA continuing to support animal welfare education across the UK zoo community."

Thursday, 31 August 2017

World Veterinary Congress, South Korea

Founder Director speaks on One Welfare and Veterinary Education

Founder JMICAWE Director and Honorary Professor, and now the Professor of One Welfare at the Eastern Institute of Technology in New Zealand, Nat Waran recently delivered an invited talk at the World Veterinary Congress in South Korea, entitled ‘ One Welfare and Veterinary Education’. 

Attended by some 4000 delegates, the Congress was opened by Mr Ban Ki Moon, former Secretary General for the UN – who confirmed the importance of ensuring the health and welfare of animals worldwide. The Global Welfare Seminar, organized by the World Veterinary Association, was an excellent opportunity to share knowledge and exchange information about the latest policy work, scientific findings and educational approaches.

Nat’s talk highlighted the reasons why animal welfare as a trans-disciplinary subject area needs to be integrated throughout the veterinary curriculum.  She also talked about the opportunities and challenges of the work of JMICAWE colleagues and partners with veterinary schools, veterinary professional groups and governments in countries where there is an urgent need to help build capacity to meet the challenges of international veterinary education guidelines. 

There is still much to be done to help ensure that future veterinary students are well equipped to become the advocates for animals that the world needs them to be – and a One Welfare approach was supported as a way forward to help support that goal. 

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Guest blog from an education research intern


Eilidh Stewart, who is hoping to begin an undergraduate degree in Anthropology this year at Aberdeen University, spent the end of July shadowing JMICAWE contributor Dr Jill MacKay. Based in the Veterinary Medical Education Division of R(D)SVS, Eilidh assisted Jill with research into education and animal welfare. Eilidh wrote a guest blog for JMICAWE about her experiences in veterinary education research:

Over the past week I have been interning in the digital education unit within the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies shadowing Dr MacKay. This has been an invaluable experience learning about the role of education research and work that goes on here.  The research undertaken by the many scientists, MSc and PhD students at R(D)SVS and Roslin Institute has been fascinating to hear about, and even more fun to assist with. I come from an arts/humanities background so the idea of working with scientists was initially daunting. However, I soon realised that my social science perspective was beneficial as I could approach theories, discussion and research from a different angle, and this helped with the social research element of some the work carried out within the Vet School. On the other hand, this week has re-ignited my interest in science. Working so closely with researchers from both the Veterinary Medical Education Division and JMICAWE improved has vastly my understanding of issues and research within animal welfare and biology - their enthusiasm for their subject has been infectious.

One of my task this week was watching recorded lectures of the Animal Biology course taught by Julie Dickson of R(D)SVS. We were using her recorded lectures to test out methods of research to analyse teaching performance, student engagement etc. within lectures. This was an informative task as it not only helped with Dr MacKay’s research into veterinary medical education but it taught me a lot about the anatomy of animals. I found the lectures fascinating.

I loved getting to hear about the various research projects carried out across the university – how we could integrate “resilience” and “empathy” training into the vet curriculum to improve mental health in students; looking at social media (e.g. yik yak) to gain feedback on university teaching and assessment and how technology such as 3D models, Virtual Reality or Recorded Lectures could be used as educational tools.

 My favourite part of this week was when we took a class for the University of Edinburgh’s “Science Insights”. This was a workshop on animal behaviour to sixteen-year olds that were interested in studying Veterinary Medicine after their secondary schooling was completed. It was fascinating to hear more about animal personalities and behaviour. Despite my help with class supervision I couldn’t help but feel like a student! The students were lovely and worked hard. We then took them out to see the horses and sheep at the vet school, and it was great to see how much enthusiasm they had not just for veterinary medicine but the research conducted on site as well. It great to be a part (albeit small) of a project that encouraged students into science, and to share my excitement for research with them.

My placement over the past week has been incredibly beneficial not just professionally but personally. I have gained a great work experience opportunity for my CV, relevant contacts for networking and a basic of understanding of animal anatomy and behaviour. It has also encouraged me to think about potentially pursuing s a future career in research/academia. I would encourage anybody else interested in research, veterinary medicine or science as a career to explore education research.

Dr Jill MacKay discussing how we can measure equine behaviour during a typical Scottish summer day!

Monday, 31 July 2017

Students from NorthWest A&F University, Yangling visit Edinburgh

Last week we were delighted to welcome Dr Wuren Ma and 12 mixed-year undergraduate vet students from the NorthWest Agriculture & Forestry University, Shaanxi Province to the Dick Vet School during their 2-week visit to the UK.

They spent a week in and around Edinburgh and spent 3 days with JMICAWE studying animal welfare.  This included very hands-on practicals in the clinical skills labs; a soggy trip to the Castlelaw sheep farm with Professor Dwyer to learn about extensive management/land use; a dog behaviour and training tutorial; and a morning at the Easter Howgate pig unit to see current research into farrowing, including a demonstration of the PigSafe method.  We even included a trip to the local pub to experience Scottish hospitality, Flotterstone Inn-style.  

They packed a lot into their visit and seemed to genuinely enjoy everything we, and the weather, could throw at them.  We wish them all the best with their continued studies and hope they took away useful information about animal production and welfare as a result of their visit.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Open Philanthropy Project in China

Exploring pig and poultry welfare in China

China accounts for half of the world's pig population (c. 36.3 million sows), and produces approximately 5 times as many pigs as the EU. China is also the largest egg producer in the world. Any improvement in animal welfare is therefore likely to have a great impact on the life of the animals.

In May two of our animal welfare researchers went to visit academics and NGOs to speak about the current welfare issues for pigs and poultry in China.

JMICAWE has recently been awarded a grant to provide animal welfare training in China and to exchange knowledge with Chinese producers. In this first visit the focus was on pig production as it tied in with the Global Pig Forum and Animal Husbandry Expo held in Qingdao, Shandong province. 

Academics and industry representatives of different regions of China were consulted on current animal welfare issues and the most effective method to reach producers. Meetings with NGOs and the Ministry of Agriculture further informed us about current animal welfare guidelines. Animal welfare guidelines for the major livestock species are currently in place or are being rolled out in the coming months. This shows that animal welfare is an increasingly important issue that is being considered by the whole industry. This was also confirmed during the presentations by leading officials and producers at the Global Pig Forum.

These newly-formed connections will contribute to a collaborative strategy to provide animal welfare training to pig and poultry producers running through until 2018.  A PhD project will run alongside the workshops to assess their effectiveness for animal welfare in practice.

The project, titled ‘Healthy animals, healthy food, healthy people’ is funded by the Open Philanthropy Project. The project is led by the JMICAWE and includes experts from JMICAWE as well as from Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC).


Monday, 17 July 2017

Meghan Ambrozevich Blair - a life remembered

Edinburgh Napier VN awarded posthumous First Class Honours degree

Amidst recent graduation celebrations, the JMICAWE team has been remembering the short but brilliant life of Napier Veterinary Nursing student Meghan Ambrozevich-Blair, who was recently awarded a posthumous First Class Honours degree.

Meghan’s life was full of compassion; she strove to improve the lives of all animals around her, from picking up earthworms after the rain, to gaining medals for being the best HNC and HND Animal care student at Barony College, Dumfries.

In 2015, Meghan signed up for a project with the JMICAWE team - Vet Heather Bacon and Veterinary Nurse Hayley Walters, collaborating with the Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (KVASU) in India - to showcase the value of compassionate and well-trained veterinary nurses The initiative has encouraged KVASU to start their own veterinary nursing training programme, and to improve the welfare of dogs and cats within its veterinary clinics (see photos above). On returning to the UK, Meghan wrote:

“At the moment there are no recognised veterinary nurses in India and we went over there to show them the amazing work we can do! Veterinary nurses are often the veterinary surgeon's right hand, we are friends to our clients and guardian angels to our patients. Although working in India proved to be a huge emotional roller-coaster, luckily the highs were just as intense as the lows. And our hopes came true earlier this week when it was announced that Kerala University have decided they definitely would like to introduce a veterinary nursing program and want to educate and train the very first veterinary nurses in India! So here’s to the future development of Indian Veterinary nurses and the long term improvement of animal care and welfare India wide!”

Meghan, a 26 year old veterinary nursing student, was tragically killed in a car accident last December as she drove to work, the day after her final veterinary nursing examination at Edinburgh Napier University. Meghan was the beloved daughter of Kevin and Lauren, loving sister of Jared and Ethan and dearly loved fiancée of Scot.

Meghan's philosophy on life

Monday, 3 July 2017

BVA Animal Welfare Foundation funds JMICAWE research

BVA Animal Welfare Foundation funds JMICAWE research

We are delighted that the BVA Animal Welfare Foundation ( has decided to fund a grant proposed by JMICAWE to identify the animal welfare priorities for the UK.

The research will use a social science technique, a Delphi analysis, to achieve consensus amongst experts on what are the most important animal welfare issues for the UK and to identify areas that should be the focus for further research.

Up for discussion in particular will be how we balance very severe animal welfare challenges (which may affect only a very small number of animals) against less severe issues (but where thousands or even millions of animals may be affected). We will be working with our animal welfare colleagues at SRUC, and with the University of Cambridge, as well as seeking a range of expert stakeholders across different industries and managed animal species and look forward to exploring the range of animal welfare issues that may be causing concern in the UK.  

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Welcome to Jess Davies, JMICAWE's new veterinary nurse

The Royal Highland Show is the highlight of the Scottish agricultural calendar. This year JMICAWE's veterinary nurse, Hayley Walters, was helping on the University of Edinburgh's stand chatting to the public about veterinary and animal welfare issues, promoting the work that the university does and the courses it offers. Joining her, and only two weeks in to her new job, was Hayley's maternity cover Jess Davies.

Jess has been veterinary nursing for 10 years and has previously worked at Cambridge Vet School, Dick White Referrals in Newmarket and volunteered for The Esther Honey Foundation on the South Pacific island of Rarotonga - the only clinic covering the whole of The Cook Islands and offering free veterinary care to all of its residents. Her patients included cats, dogs and goats and Jess was involved in training new veterinary nurses and supporting newly qualified vets.

'Having recently returned from travelling, working and volunteering overseas, I was ready for a new challenge once I returned to the UK. I am very happy to be in Edinburgh and feel privileged to be involved with the great work that JMICAWE does promoting the welfare of animals and assisting in the education of vets, students, and nurses in many different countries. Changing attitudes towards the way animals are treated, from the harmful use of live dogs and sheep used to teach surgical skills to vet students, to improving inpatient care in veterinary teaching hospitals via a veterinary nurse training programme, is an ongoing effort and I am very proud to be able to use my passion for animal welfare to contribute to this inspirational work.'

We are very pleased to have Jess join our team and her first project is to carry on helping The University of Peradeniya set up Sri Lanka's first ever veterinary nurse (VN) training programme. She will also be leading the project to create the accompanying inaugural Veterinary Nursing Skills Online Course, aimed at student VNs and lecturers working in countries that don't currently have a recognised VN training programme. We wish her all the best and Hayley too as she prepares to leave to have her first baby.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Animal Science in Perugia, Italy

Animal science in Perugia, Italy

Prof Cathy Dwyer attended the 22nd Congress of the Animal Science and Production Association of Italy as a guest speaker between 12th-16th June (

The meeting was held in the ancient and beautiful Umbrian city of Perugia, noted for its wine, jazz and chocolates! An important development of the society over the years has been an increase in the focus and presentation of papers on animal health and welfare, on a diverse range of species from fish, poultry, horses and rabbits to pigs and cattle.

Although somewhat hampered by her non-existent Italian language skills, Cathy learnt a lot about rabbit husbandry, horse-breeding, heat stress and cow calf behaviour in buffalo. She also attended a fascinating talk about the potential for insects to provide high protein food for animals and humans with a low carbon footprint. Of course, insects are already an important food source in free ranging poultry so this innovation may help to provide a more interesting and natural diet for chickens, whilst causing less ethical concerns than other protein sources for animal feeds. The acceptability of insect-based foods for humans is always an interesting discussion topic, with this being a normal food source in some countries and viewed with horror by others. But social science research presented at the congress suggested that, at least with younger Italian consumers, the idea of eating insects was viewed with interest and there was good acceptability at least for the idea. Earthworm burgers did not, however, feature on the Congress menu!   

Thursday, 22 June 2017

JMICAWE Director attends inaugural meeting of EU Animal Welfare Platform in Brussels

Inaugural meeting of the EU Animal Welfare Platform

The EU has developed a new body, the Animal Welfare Platform, as a forum to improve discussion and dialogue on animal welfare between the competent authorities (veterinarians with responsibility to deliver animal welfare improvement in each country), businesses that rely on animals, NGOs and animal groups and scientists.

The inaugural meeting of the platform was held in Brussels on 6th June, and JMICAWE Director, Prof Cathy Dwyer, was one of the small group of scientists from across Europe invited to take part as an independent expert. A particular focus for the platform discussions were around the enforcement of regulations for pig and poultry welfare, as well as discussions about other non-legislative methods to bring about improvements in animal welfare. In addition, how animal welfare standards in the EU can be rolled out to other countries was also an important discussion topic – which may have implications for the UK post-Brexit! However, in addition to pigs and poultry, other issues such as the welfare of small ruminants (sheep and goats), rabbits, horses and puppies were also raised.

Cathy says:

‘It is really good news that the EU has set up this platform and I hope that we can begin to see real change and progress as a result of this initiative. It was exciting to be present at the start of this venture and I look forward to active engagement on all areas of animal welfare policy. The international expertise of JMICAWE in engaging with other countries in animal welfare training and policy will be very important in the activities of the platform.’  

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

JMICAWE vet attends BVA Animal Welfare discussion day

British Veterinary Association's Animal Welfare discussion day highlights
 the vet’s responsibilities for safeguarding animal welfare

Last Monday the BVA’s Animal welfare foundation held their annual discussion day. Starting with a session on challenges for modern pets, speakers looked at the impact of brachycephaly and behaviour problems on the welfare of our companion animals, and the role of the vet in speaking out for animal welfare.

In the afternoon a panel of equine vets outlined the challenges of equine welfare in performance horses. There was a strong focus on welfare being assessed in terms of a horse’s fitness to work, and this contrasted clearly with the previous companion animal welfare session where behavioural and social needs had been considered alongside physical fitness.

The day ended with a session outlining AWF-funded research in production animals which was leading to improvements in welfare for sheep and dairy cattle, with a focus on changing traditional farming approaches to healthcare, in order to improve welfare.