I write this column just after a successful meeting held in Langford, Bristol on the welfare, ethical and legal aspects of the foot and mouth epidemic. It seems that the outbreak, at last, has been brought under control but at some cost to many of the stakeholders. Farmers have been upset at the loss of their herds and flocks, animals which they may have spent a lifetime breeding (and even their parents before them). The public are upset, even revolted, by the ways in which animals are killed, piled up and disposed of, let alone the use of their taxes for compensation. The ministry vets (both full time and part-time) becoming increasingly frustrated by the seeming administrative illogicalities, and poor welfare implications of restricted animal movements. And then there are the indirect effects on dog walkers, ramblers and others, as well as the tourist industry. There are few winners in these situations, but many losers. No doubt lessons will be learned. I hope that the welfare of both animals and humans, and the broader ethical issues, will be fully debated here in the UK as well as in Europe and elsewhere, and that this will influence future legislation and strategy in controlling and preventing such outbreaks.
On a completely different note, AWSELVA must congratulate our first Chairperson Ruth Layton and her partner Roland Bonney on the Food Animals Initiative (FAI) at Oxford – they aim to show that good animal welfare is both practical and profitable. This is a most exciting venture combining applied research projects with members of the University of Oxford (and elsewhere) in a commercial farming setting. GOOD LUCK to both of you, and let us know how we can help.
In my two years as Chairman I have been fully and well supported by the other members of the committee and I would like to thank them most sincerely for all their hard work. Like many in my position we would have wished to have achieved more, but that depends on many factors as well as making the most of opportunities that arise. We have been somewhat hamstrung in making AWSELVA’s views known to the public because of the wording of the Constitution but this was changed at the AGM, and so there will now be less of an obstacle to writing press briefings and contacting and responding to media enquiries.
To single out specific committee members and their input might seem iniquitous but it is easy as they have all contributed to AWSELVA. The excellent Newsletter by Sue Haslam and Peter Thornton (and web site), the working party organisers for slaughter policy (SteveWotton) and Redress (Madelaine Forsythe), wise council and constitutional matters by Roger Hancock and Mike Radford, and continuing secretarial support and record keeping by Greg Dixon. In addition we have added another position to the committee that of a junior chairperson, so that expertise and contacts can more easily be passed on with some idea of succession. I would like to thank Roger for all the work he has put into the organisation over the past 6 years or so and of course welcome aboard James Kirkwood as a committee member, and John Webster as Chairman. My successor excels in the area of public communication and I wish him particularly well for the next 2 years. He is just the person we want to continue to consolidate AWSELVA’s position in the field of animal welfare and ethics.
It seems a long time since the formation of the RCVS’s Certificate in Animal Welfare, Ethics and Law, a postgraduate qualification that has been emulated down under by the Australian Veterinary Association with the New Zealand Veterinary Association. We now have many holders of the certificate, twenty seven, but we need more diplomats (only five) – so do the business out there. We also need more input from the membership, ideas, particular interests and so on. So please contact us either directly or through our website.