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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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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 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.
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.
Have 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