Welfare of farmed animals and captive exotic species on AWF Discussion Forum agenda

05 February 2019

The annual Animal Welfare Foundation (AWF) Discussion Forum will return to London on 5 June with an exciting new debate format that will feature expert speakers putting forth opposing arguments on the welfare of UK’s farmed animals and exotic species in captivity.

One of the best-loved CPD events of the veterinary calendar, the Discussion Forum invites experts from around the world to discuss a range of fascinating sessions designed to address key issues impacting animal welfare today and to inspire change. This year’s sessions will feature a formal debate style, with experts speaking for and against a motion before opening the floor to questions and views from the audience.

The morning debate session, chaired by RCVS president Amanda Boag, will pose the question: ‘UK farming: is welfare good enough?’. The UK’s farm animal welfare standards are considered among the highest in the world. However, issues such as non-stun slaughter, the live transport of animals and the changes facing the agricultural sector in terms of technology, growth and Brexit challenge this claim. David Main, Professor of Production Animal Health and Welfare at the Royal Agricultural University, and Jim Reynolds, Professor of Large Animal Medicine and Welfare at Western University of Health Sciences, California, will take opposing stances on the issue, drawing on insights from developments in farming practices in the UK and around the world. 

The afternoon debate, chaired by Sky News Sports Editor Nick Powell, will ask if we can meet the welfare needs of the growing numbers of non-traditional companion animals and wildlife in domestic settings or in zoos. Internationally renowned specialist zoo and wildlife vet Romain Pizzi, exotics vet Tariq Abou-Zahr and the Born Free Foundation’s Dr Chris Draper and Mark Jones will debate the issue, looking at the complexity of husbandry requirements of exotic animals, the suitability of current animal welfare assessment frameworks, and the ‘greater good’ of conservation and breeding programmes, among other themes.

Chris Laurence, AWF Chair of Trustees, said: 

“This year’s Discussion Forum confronts two very topical and challenging animal welfare topics for debate and a line-up of exceptional expert speakers from around the world. I’m particularly looking forward to the new debate format, which will give delegates insights on both sides of an issue, while an audience vote immediately before and after the debate will give us a handy barometer of delegate opinion.

“Last year’s Big Debate session threw up lots of enthusiastic discussions on whether insurance compromises an animal’s quality of life, so this year we will be holding a special session that will take a cross-sectoral look at over-treatment, euthanasia and end-of-life care in both the veterinary and human health sectors.

“The forum will be relevant to the whole veterinary practice team, students and animal welfare professionals, offering delegates the chance to discuss some of the most important issues within the veterinary profession today.”

Simon Doherty, President of the British Veterinary Association and AWF trustee, said:

“The Discussion Forum is an exceptional conference that provides a wonderful opportunity for informed debate on important animal welfare issues. It is also a great forum to network with leading animal welfare researchers from across the UK and further afield.

“One of the big attractions this year will be the research session, where the results of AWF’s Delphi study on the top animal welfare priorities in the UK will be revealed.

“I would encourage as many people as possible to attend, hear from the experts on these important issues and contribute to the discussions.”

Professor Cathy Dwyer, Director of the Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare Education at University of Edinburgh, will share findings from the AWF-funded Delphi research project. The discussion on end-of-life care will be chaired by Chris Laurence, with Dr Polly Taylor, European Veterinary Specialist in Anaesthesia and Analgesia, and Dr Angela Halley, Consultant in Palliative Medicine at The Royal Marsden Hospital, sharing perspectives from both the veterinary and human health sectors.

Join the debate

Veterinary professionals who are unable to attend can join the conversations by following @AWF_VETS and using the hashtag #AWFDebate on the day. The sessions will also be available to watch for free on AWF’s Youtube channel afterwards.

Following the event, AWF and the British Veterinary Association will jointly host a reception at the House of Commons, offering delegates the opportunity to continue discussing the day’s issues with parliamentarians and policymakers. The programme and tickets for the Discussion Forum and House of Commons reception are now available for purchase

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