Insights from assessing the welfare of captive dolphins

Author: Dr Isabella Clegg, Animal welfare consultant at Animal Welfare Expertise
Since its inception, animal welfare science has continuously led to improvements in captive animal welfare and helped to clarify our legislation and ethical standpoints around the issues. The spread of welfare science from farms and laboratories to zoos has led to an exponential increase in welfare research on one of the most debated animal groups currently in captivity: dolphins.
There are around 2000 registered captive cetaceans around the world – predominantly dolphins (including killer whales) and belugas – and the number of facilities in places like China is rapidly increasing. This blog outlines the insights gained from dolphin welfare research so far.
Early research
In the years prior to around 2000, much research was carried out on captive dolphins on topics linked to welfare, but the term or principles were rarely considered. For example, stress hormones were studied (Thomson et al. 1986) and stress-related behaviours were described (e.g. stereotypic behaviour, Gygax 1993), but no welfare indicators were identified. Zoo animal welfare had only just started to be studied, and dolphin facilities were often slightly removed from zoos through their different functions and regulation, as well as public perception.
Initial welfare studies
By this point, conditions for captive dolphins in modern facilities were much improved from the last decades, the animals were living as long as their wild counterparts (Jaakkola & Willis 2019) and wild capture was no longer needed because of breeding successes. However, the industry started to face increasing pressure from activists and the public, fuelled by the media and ongoing unacceptable practices in less developed areas. This stimulated the captive facilities to engage with scientists and investigate the dolphins’ welfare more objectively, and from 2010 there was an exponential increase in studies asking questions about dolphin welfare.
 
Delfour & Beyer (2012) outlined how environmental enrichment should be applied to increase welfare, and Ugaz et al. (2013) found dolphins’ cortisol levels and likely welfare was higher in artificial pools as opposed to sea pens. 
Regular monitoring, especially of behaviour, is crucial to measuring and improving welfare. Photo credit: Beluga Whale Sanctuary
Farm animal welfare techniques were also applied to dolphins, such as the application by Clegg et al. (2015) of the well-established WelfareQuality® framework (2009a,b,c) to dolphins, proposing the first comprehensive welfare framework, called the C-Well©, for these animals. As for other animals, behavioural measures were found to be particularly relevant to overall dolphin welfare, especially since dolphins as prey species often mask symptoms of poor health.
Validating welfare indicators
As welfare studies on captive dolphins continued increasing, it became possible to start validating indicators by correlating multiple parameters. Two studies looked at how the environmental factor of noisy construction work impacts welfare: one study found that play behaviour decreased (Serres & Delfour 2017), and another found cortisol levels increased in response to the stressor (Monreal-Pawlowsky et al. 2017). Anticipatory behaviour (activity performed in preparation for an predictable upcoming event) has started to be investigated in terrestrial animals as a potential welfare indicator, and is proving to be a meaningful measure in captive dolphins, whose daily environments involves many predictable events. Anticipatory behaviour for positive events in dolphins manifests as behaviour such as ‘surface-looking’ and ‘spy-hopping’ (Jensen et al. 2013), and was used to understand the animals’ preference for different events. In a recent study, dolphins’ increased anticipatory behaviour suggested that they ‘looked forward’ to non-food interactions with familiar trainers, and more than toy enrichment (Clegg et al. 2018). These results highlight a few significant measures for dolphin welfare: whether the trainers offer interactions with the animals outside of food provision sessions, and whether the animals show affiliative behaviours towards them, indicating positive human-animal bonds (similarly important to terrestrial animal welfare).
Optimistic dolphins?
A dolphin touches a target as part of a cognitive bias test, an approach which has been valuable in identifying potential welfare indicators. Photo credit: Parc Astérix
One welfare test making waves in terrestrial animal research is investigating ‘cognitive bias’, which basically reveals whether animals make more optimistic or pessimistic judgements in uncertain situations (Mendl et al. 2009). Interestingly, animals that tend to judge optimistically are generally in better welfare, while those who are more pessimistic tend to be in poorer welfare.
 
With my co-authors, I tested cognitive bias in dolphins, and found that the most optimistic dolphins were those who conducted more affiliative behaviour, measured by the time spent swimming in synchrony. This suggests that providing the opportunity for positive social bonds is a key factor for good welfare in captive dolphins. I did a TEDx talk on the findings of this experiment and how it might even help us understand our own welfare! This is accessible here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sb_eEPDzgAg
Welfare in the wild
Although there are different definitions, it is now generally accepted that welfare describes how an animal feels. It can therefore exist and apply to animals in the wild too. This can be beneficial for some conservation projects, since individual welfare data can sometimes be more meaningful for real-time threats than population-level parameters, and it also allows the public to empathise and connect with the issues (Beausoleil et al. 2019). Zoos have an important role in this new application of welfare science, as they are currently the only context where welfare research is conducted on wild animal species. Many of the welfare indicators developed so far for captive dolphins can be applied or adapted to their wild counterparts, such as measuring synchronous swimming behaviour, cortisol levels, rake mark coverage and body condition (Clegg et al. 2017).
The welfare of wild animals can also be measured, and can improve our conservation efforts in certain contexts. Photo credit: Patagonia Projects
Conclusion
Research on dolphin welfare has advanced significantly in the last few years, and is helping to improve the conditions for the animals as well as the quality of the debates around their existence in captivity. The dolphins’ welfare is just one aspect of the discussion, and needs to be combined with other equally important elements such as the purposes of keeping them for public display. Studies have started to identify the first indicators of dolphin welfare, such as cortisol levels, synchronous swimming, play, anticipatory behaviour, stereotypical behaviour, and positive human-animal bonds. Cognitive bias testing is a very useful tool for identifying dolphin welfare indicators, as it has been for other zoo and farm animals. More work is needed on the welfare indicators and their inter-individual variability, which will only come from captive facilities continuing to open their doors to researchers, coupled with a societal consensus to optimise the welfare of the animals already under our care.

Links and more info

Twitter: @izziclegg
Instagram: @thedolphindoctor
Animal Welfare Expertise, a consultancy helping to apply welfare science where it is most needed. https://www.animalwelfareexpertise.com/
TEDx talk: Animals can teach us how to be happier: by being adaptable optimists https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sb_eEPDzgAg
More info on animal optimists and pessimists: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uanYssesYSQ

References

Beausoleil, N. J., Mellor, D. J., Baker, L., Baker, S. E., Bellio, M., Clarke, A. S., … & Pitcher, B. J. (2018). ‘Feelings and Fitness’ not ‘Feelings or Fitness’–the raison d’être of Conservation Welfare, which aligns conservation and animal welfare objectives. Frontiers in veterinary science, 5, 296.
 
Clegg, I.L.K., Borger-Turner, J.., Eskelinen, H.., 2015. C-Well: The development of a welfare assessment index for captive bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). Anim. Welf. 24, 267–282.
 
Clegg, I. L. K., Rödel, H. G., Boivin, X. & Delfour, F., 2018. Looking forward to interacting with familiar humans: dolphins’ anticipatory behaviour indicates their motivation to participate in specific events. Applied Animal Behaviour Science. 22, 85-93
 
Clegg, I. L. K., van Elk, C. E., & Delfour, F. (2017). Applying welfare science to bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). Animal Welfare, 26, 165-176.
 
Clegg, I. L. K., Rödel, H. G. & Delfour, F. (2017). Bottlenose dolphins engaging in more social affiliative behaviour judge ambiguous cues more optimistically. Behavioural Brain Research, 322, 115-122.
 
Delfour, F., Beyer, H., 2012. Assessing the effectiveness of environmental enrichment in bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). Zoo Biol. 31, 137–150.
 
Gygax, L., 1993. Spatial movement patterns and behaviour of two captive bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus): absence of stereotyped behaviour or lack of definition? Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. 38, 337–344.
 
Jaakkola, K., & Willis, K., 2019. How long do dolphins live? Survival rates and life expectancies for bottlenose dolphins in zoological facilities vs. wild populations. Marine Mammal Science. Early view, https://doi.org/10.1111/mms.12601
 
Jensen, A.-L.M., Delfour, F., Carter, T., 2013. Anticipatory behavior in captive bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus): a preliminary study. Zoo Biol. 32, 436–44.
 
Mendl, M., Burman, O., Parker, R.M.A., Paul, E.S., 2009. Cognitive bias as an indicator of animal emotion and welfare: Emerging evidence and underlying mechanisms. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. 118, 161–181.
 
Monreal-Pawlowsky, T., Carbajal, A., Tallo-Parra, O., Sabés-Alsina, M., Monclús, L., Almunia, J., … & Lopez-Bejar, M. 2017. Daily salivary cortisol levels in response to stress factors in captive common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus): a potential welfare indicator. Veterinary Record, vetrec-2016.
 
Serres, A., Delfour, F., 2017. Environmental changes and anthropogenic factors modulate social play in captive bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus ). Zoo Biol. 36, 99–111.
 
Thomson, C.A., Geraci, J.R., 1986. Cortisol, Aldosterone, and Leucocytes in the Stress Response of Bottlenose Dolphins, Tursiops truncatus. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 43, 1010–1016.
 
Ugaz, C., Valdez, R.A., Romano, M.C., Galindo, F., 2013. Behavior and salivary cortisol of captive dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) kept in open and closed facilities. J. Vet. Behav. Clin. Appl. Res. 8, 285–290.
 
Welfare Quality®, 2009a. Welfare Quality® Assessment protocol for cattle. Welfare Quality® Consortium: Lelystad, The Netherlands.
 
Welfare Quality®, 2009b. Welfare Quality® assessment protocol for pigs. Welfare Quality® Consortium: Lelystad, The Netherlands.
 
Welfare Quality®, 2009c. Welfare Quality® assessment protocol for poultry. Welfare Quality® Consortium: Lelystad, The Netherlands.

Is dehorning of cattle an outdated practice?

Author: Alice Oven, Senior Editor, Taylor & Francis Publishing and MSc student at University of Winchester
Dehorning of cattle is standard practice in modern farming systems, conducted to protect leather and meat products from damage. However, there are major welfare implications associated with both dehorning cattle and disbudding calves. This blog looks at the key issues and considers how the practice might be discouraged.
Physiological, neuroendocrine and behavioural evidence indicates that dehorning or disbudding cattle compromises welfare, especially when conducted without pain management. To disbud a calf, a 600 degree iron is pressed against the head to burn through the nerves and blood vessels that would allow the horn bud to develop (Pond, 2012). Excessive heat can damage the underlying bone (Kihurani et al, 1989). Alternatively, caustic paste may be used to chemically burn off the horn buds, making the pain easier to manage (when the burning paste does not run into the calf’s eyes) (Vickers et al, 2005). Dehorning of adult cattle increases risks of sinusitis, bleeding and infection (Hoffsis, 1995). On some occasions, crude instruments may be used to physically remove (gouge out) horns or buds, or wire employed to saw off horns (AVMA, 2014). Use of a local anaesthetic does not completely alleviate the pain for the adult cow nor calf for any of these methods, during or after surgery (Stafford and Mellor, 2005). The commonly used anaesthetic lidocaine, for instance, is only effective for up to three hours after administration.
Cauterising iron in action. Image by Dr Clive Dalton.
A cattle pen with carefully designed curved corridors
Refinements such as using combinations of drugs or cauterising the wound to dull the pain offer a partial solution but do not completely negate the welfare cost. Is there then an effective strategy to discourage the practice altogether? Enhanced human-animal relationships (HAR) might reduce danger of injury to handlers from horned cattle. Talking calmly can lower fear in the animal and agitation in the handler, while animals worked in groups are less easily stressed and panicked than individuals. Situations that cause cattle to refuse to move (and consequently injure themselves and their handler) can be avoided with specially designed chutes, smaller pens, consistent level flooring, sensitive lighting, curved alleyways with solid walls and padded equipment (Chastain, 2017).
For economic reasons, farmers have been traditionally resistant to using naturally polled (hornless) breeds because these cattle, particularly in dairy farming, are perceived as less productive. Polled beef bulls already demonstrate behaviour, growth, carcass quality and reproductive performance equivalent to their horned counterparts. Raising public awareness of explicitly inhumane practices like disbudding might counter losses by encouraging consumers to pay more for milk from polled cows. This means challenging consumer perception that dairy cow welfare is more positive than that of meat animals, a belief that have made addressing welfare issues in the dairy industry “considerably more challenging and vexatious than doing so in the beef industry” (Rollin, 2017). More recently, documentaries such as the BBC’s ‘The Dark Side of Dairy’ are helping to change this.
Another possibility is introducing the polled gene into productive breeds like Friesian and Celtic cattle. Many polled cows will carry a second horned allele (heterozygous polled) which they may pass down to their calves; however, new testing can identify cattle carrying two polled genes (homozygous polled) and guarantee that they can breed with horned cattle and still produce polled offspring. This test is now available at the University of Queensland and can be done cost-effectively as a ‘bundle’ which can be customised for each breed. Most traditional Hereford breeders have introduced the polled gene to their herds in response to commercial preferences: in 2017 77.8 percent of calves were born polled compared with 69.7 percent in 2016, a positive indicator of change.
Rose, a polled Hereford cow. Image by Cliff, 2008
It may even be plausible to speed up this process using genetic engineering. Recombinetics are fast forwarding selective breeding to create hornless Friesian dairy cows. The gene editing company is crossbreeding hornless mutations of beef cattle breeds such as the Angus and “turning off” the gene that provides for horns (Bloch, 2018). They are also developing castration-free swine that don’t go through puberty and heat-tolerant cattle for the Tropics. In the past, public fear and FDA regulations have prevented such animals from entering the food market: Annie, the first genetically modified cow was engineered in 2000 to be resistant to mastitis (a staph infection costing dairy farmers $1.7 billion a year) but public fears and government regulations prevented her from entering the food market (Bloch, 2018). It’s plausible that almost 20 years on the climate is changing, regulatory oversight potentially moving to the USDA1 and gene editing tools like CRISPR and TALEN removing the nightmarish connotations of ‘combining’ animals using transgenesis techniques of old. In this case, the immediate creation of hornless cattle might become viable.
To conclude, painful dehorning and disbudding of cattle is becoming an increasingly unnecessary practice, and can be avoided using more humane handling techniques and careful genetic selection for polled cows. In this instance, GE is actually offering a further opportunity to enhance animal welfare, but whether the public will accept this perceivably ‘unnatural’ intervention is yet to be seen.

References

AVMA (2014). Welfare Implications of Dehorning and Disbudding Cattle: Literature Review. Available at: https://www.avma.org/KB/Resources/LiteratureReviews/Pages/Welfare-Implications-of-Dehorning-and-Disbudding-Cattle.aspx [Accessed 18 March 2019].

Bengtsson B., Menzel A., Holtenius P., et al. (1996). Cryosurgical dehorning of calves: a preliminary study.  Veterinary Record, 138:234-237.

Bloch, S. (2018). Hornless Holsteins and Enviropigs: the genetically engineered animals we never knew. New Food Economy. Available at https://newfoodeconomy.org/transgenesis-gene-editing-fda-aquabounty/amp/ [Accessed 12 Oct. 2018].

Chastain, C.B. (2017). Animal Handling and Physical Restraint. Boca Raton, Fl.: CRC Press, 296.

Hoffsis G. (1995). Surgical (cosmetic) dehorning in cattle. Veterinary Clinics: Food Animal Practice, 11:159-169.

Kihurani D., Mbiuki S., Ngatia T. (1989). Healing of dehorning wounds. British Veterinary Journal, 145:580-585.

McDonald, A. (2018). Weekly genetics review: the elusive polled gene not so elusive. Beef Central. 16 Oct. Available at https://www.beefcentral.com/genetics/weekly-genetics-review-the-elusive-polled-gene-not-so-elusive/ [Accessed 16 Oct. 2018].

Pond, W., Bazer, F. & Rollin, B. (2012). Animal Welfare in Animal Agriculture: Husbandry, Stewardship, and Sustainability in Animal Production, Second Edition, Boca Raton, Fl: CRC Press.

Rollin, B. (2017). Guest commentary: animal welfare in the dairy industry. AGWEB. Farm Journal. 04 Nov. Available at https://www.agweb.com/mobile/article/guest-commentary-animal-welfare-in-the-dairy-industry/ [Accessed 21 Nov. 2017].

Rollin, B. (1995). The Frankenstein Syndrome: Ethical and Social Issues in the Genetic Engineering of Animals, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Stafford K., Mellor D. (2005). Dehorning and disbudding stress and its alleviation in calves. Veterinary Journal, 169:337-349.

Vickers K., Niel L., Kiehlbauch L., et al. (2005). Calf response to caustic paste and hot-iron dehorning using sedation with and without local anesthetic. Journal of Dairy Science, 88:1545-1459.

1 In a statement released in February 2018, the National Pork Producers Council called for moving regulatory oversight of gene edited animals from FDA to a department of USDA that already regulates gene editing in plants.

About the author

Alice Oven is Senior Editor at Taylor & Francis Publishing and an MSc student at University of Winchester, commissioning Life Science and Veterinary books by day and studying for a degree in Animal Welfare Science, Ethics and Law by night. Based in London, her blog www.aliceanimalwelfare.com hosts a range of articles and essays on animal rights and welfare, including pieces for Utility Farm, A-LAW, and IFAW.

You can follow Alice on Twitter at @Alice_Oven and on Instagram at @moonlolly.

Cataracts in corvids


Author Dr David L Williams

 

Corvids (crows, rooks and jays) are anything but birdbrained, as Professor Nicky Clayton has shown in many research papers. But her group of scrub jays have, over several years, developed cataracts which influence their vision and hence may have welfare implications. Here is a recent paper investigating this problem and it’s associated welfare issues.

The development of cataracts in a colony of 55 Western scrub jays (Aphelocoma californica) kept in a colony is reported, etiopathology discussed and welfare implications debated. Birds were examined with direct and indirect ophthalmoscopy and slit lamp biomicroscopy. Intraocular pressures were measured with a rebound tonometer.

Thirty eight birds were diagnosed with some lens opacification, ranging from linear arrangements of small vacuoles to mature cataract. In some birds this lens pathology was seen concurrent with adnexal post-traumatic pathology or with substantial uveitic changes. Behaviour changes were only noted in birds with mature or near-mature cataracts. The lack of significant ultraviolet light and the provision of a suitable avian diet suggest that neither excess light nor inadequate nutrition could be factors in cataractogenesis.

While a genetic cause is difficult to exclude, the fact that these were wild caught birds from an outbred population without observed lens pathology in the wild renders this unlikely. We suggest that a post-traumatic aetiology is the likely causative factor in the genesis of lens opacities in these birds. The changes in behaviour and the impact on the welfare of birds with these ocular changes is discussed.

Cataracts in corvids: health and welfare implications of lens opacification in a colony of Western scrub-jays” is available for download here:
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/317548821_Cataracts_in_corvids_health_and_welfare_implications_of_lens_opacification_in_a_colony_of_Western_scrub-jays_Aphelocoma_californica

Published June 12, 2017 in the International Journal of Avian & Wildlife Biology, Volume 2 Issue 1. Authors: David L Williams and Nigel Slater, Department of Veterinary Medicine, University of Cambridge, UK.


Future welfare policy and law


Author Prof Donald M Broom

 

Donald M. Broom, Emeritus Professor of Animal Welfare at Cambridge University, was asked by the European Parliament to write a Study on “Animal Welfare in the European Union”. The recently published 75 page document, summarised below, is now available on the internet HERE.

Some of the many EU Directives and Regulations relevant to animal welfare are listed and the role of scientific information in their formation is explained. Most of the legislation concerns animals that are often the subject of trade. The welfare of hundreds of millions of animals has improved as a result of EU policies and legislation. EU citizens are becoming increasingly concerned that all kinds of production systems and other activities should be sustainable. Animal welfare is an important aspect of sustainability, and also of product quality, and may result in consumers refusing to buy products.

The terms welfare, stress, needs, humane and euthanasia are defined and some of the ways in which they are used imprecisely in EU documents and elsewhere are described. Animal health is principally of importance because it is a key part of animal welfare. It can also have economic and human disease consequences. The terms health and welfare have exactly the same meaning for humans and for other animal species, hence the current interest in ‘one health’ and ‘one welfare’. When the welfare of individuals is poor, there is increased susceptibility to disease, hence improving welfare generally reduces disease. Preventing anti-microbial resistance is good for animal welfare and improved welfare can reduce the need for use of anti-microbial products. Those with medical, veterinary or other biological backgrounds benefit from exchanging information, in particular because of the similarities in disease and in other causes of poor welfare in humans and other species. Care for people and care for animals used by people is generally better if all are considered as individuals.

The EU policy of producing welfare legislation for more and more of the widely-kept animals has slowed down in recent years. The existing laws are generally good but EU citizens find it unacceptable that 9 of the 12 most widely-kept animal species in the EU are not protected by EU law. EFSA reports and opinions, specific to these animals, could be used in formulating legislation. The gaps in EU legislation on animal protection could be remedied by a general animal welfare law, somewhat like the general animal health law. This would simplify legislation but, in addition or as subsections, the substantial gaps in coverage of species in EU law should be remedied by specific laws. Effective enforcement of laws on animal welfare is desirable but is not a substitute for completeness of coverage of the law.

Animal Welfare in the European Union” is available for download here:
http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/STUD/2017/583114/IPOL_STU(2017)583114_EN.pdf

Reference
Broom, D.M. 2017. Animal Welfare in the European Union. Brussels: European Parliament Policy Department, Citizen’s Rights and Constitutional Affairs, pp 75. ISBN 978-92-846-0543-9 doi: 10-2861/891355.


Animal welfare in zoos


zoo_animals_SHblogAuthor Dr Sonya P. Hill

 

When did you last visit a zoo? Perhaps it was in your childhood, or more recently? You might have seen a range of enclosure styles, such as large naturalistic habitats, designed to provide animals with a wide range of choices and opportunities to access resources that are important to them, or more old-fashioned, ‘traditional’ zoo enclosures, with very unnatural-looking features, few retreat areas for the animals, and limited space. What can we infer about an animal’s welfare from looking at its enclosure and the resources provided? What other, animal-based indicators do we need to use when assessing welfare scientifically in zoos, and what kinds of challenges do we need to overcome in order to do so?

In my research, I use an evidence-based approach to investigate the welfare of a range of zoo-housed species, with the goal of continuous improvement. Responsible zoos should be providing the best possible conditions for the animals living there, as well as making meaningful contributions to conservation efforts in the wild and providing a good visitor experience; the welfare of zoo animals impacts on both of these areas as well. Some of my work focuses on the assessment of targeted housing and husbandry techniques, aimed at providing animals with appropriate resources, behavioural opportunities, choices and complexity.

You can find out more about my work HERE.


Dogs as pets and food in Vietnam


Dogs_blog postAuthor Dr Anthony Podberscek

 

Dogs are not only pets/companions, in some countries they are also food. Two issues arising from this are 1) is it ethical/OK to eat them? and 2) what is the welfare like for these animals? I’ve written previously about these issues in relation to the situation in South Korea. In July I’ll be giving a talk about the situation in Vietnam at the annual conference of the International Society for Anthrozoology in Barcelona, and the research will also soon be published as a book chapter in “Companion Animals in Everyday Life” (edited by Michał Pregowski).

In my research, funded by the International Fund for Animal Welfare, I collected data in two ways. Firstly, relevant information on the history and current status of dog use and consumption was sourced from academic literature, newspaper reports, websites, and animal welfare organizations. Secondly, in 2004, the polling agency Market & Opinion Research International (MORI, now known as Ipsos MORI) was contracted to survey 1000 adults (15 years and above) in the cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City about dogs. Respondents were asked about their attitudes to the roles that dogs had in their society and whether or not they would support a ban on eating certain animals, including dogs.

Over the past few decades, pet ownership has increased in popularity in Vietnam; popular breeds of dog are Pekingese, poodles, Chihuahuas, and Huskies. A magazine just for pet lovers—Me Thu Cung (A Passion for Pets) —commenced publication in 2014. Of the participants in the survey, 52% owned pet animals, for example dogs, cats, birds, and fish. The survey showed that, overall, people were supportive of the use of dogs as pets, as assistance animals, and as guard dogs, but were against the use of dogs as food. In line with this, there was support for a ban on the eating of dogs. However, there was a major difference of opinion when residents of the two cities were compared: the majority of people living in the north (Hanoi), as opposed to the south (Ho Chi Minh City), were actually supportive of using dogs for food and would not support a ban on the eating of dogs.

With increased interest in the keeping of purebred pet dogs and the promotion of kindness to dogs via animal welfare organizations, it will be interesting to see what happens to the prevalence of dog-meat eating in Vietnam in the coming years. In the meantime, the welfare of the dogs used as food (how they are raised, transported, and slaughtered) is of paramount importance.

 


Welfare and whale exploitation

whales-blogAuthor Prof Donald Broom

 

Five years ago a meeting was arranged, by the U.K. and some other International Whaling Commission (IWC) members, at which the subject of the welfare of whales during whaling was discussed. At this time, any mention of the word welfare was vetoed at IWC meetings by the small group of countries that killed whales. Professor Don Broom from Cambridge University was one of the speakers at that meeting in Looe, Cornwall, U.K. and one result was his paper in Animal Welfare, 22, 123-126 (2013) entitled “The science of animal welfare and its relevance to whales.” Later, there were talks on animal welfare by Broom and others at a fringe meeting of IWC in Jersey, U.K. and now the subject of animal welfare is on the IWC Agenda.

The IWC was started in order to consider the conservation of cetaceans so this subject has long been considered, for example by scientists like Ray Gambell. However, it must have been obvious to the countries that continued to kill whales and blocked the mention of animal welfare on any agenda item at the IWC, that the methods used were far from humane. Some of the effects on whale welfare of whaling activities are: disturbance by boats, harpoon entry, pulling harpooned whales to a boat, capture procedures, the point of unconsciousness and consequences for animals that escape after being harpooned. If an explosive harpoon is used, explosion in some parts of the body kills the whale but impacts in other parts can result in death only after many days or weeks.

The term ‘humane’, in relation to animals, means their treatment in such a way that their welfare is good to a certain high degree. The welfare is either above the threshold, in which case the treatment is humane, or it is not. Humane killing implies either that the treatment of the animals in the course of the killing procedure does not cause poor welfare, or that the procedure itself results in insensibility to pain and distress within a few seconds. With present methodologies for catching whales during whaling, it appears that the extent of poor welfare during catching and killing is always substantial. The magnitude of poor welfare is much greater than that during the use of any method detailed in law for legally killing a domestic or wild animal. The whale killing procedure would be humane for very few whales.

 


The health and welfare of dogs owned by homeless people

Author Dr David L Williams

 
Homeless people petsHave you walked past people on the streets of your town living with a dog by their side and stopped to chat to them and give their companion a stroke? Or maybe walked past wondering whether it really is appropriate for homeless people to own a pet?

A past vet student at Cambridge, who had grown up in Liverpool with many more homeless people than we have in Cambridge, worked with me to ask homeless people about their pets and give them a clinical examination. How healthy were these animals and what was the standard of their welfare? Remarkably good it turned out, and equal or often better than the dogs owned by people living in homes which we also interviewed and examined.

You might be interested to read our paper, recently published in the new online journal ‘Pet Behaviour Science’ and available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/299507221_The_health_and_welfare_of_dogs_owned_ by_homeless_people