I would like to thank all members of the AWSELVA Committee (only I wasn’t!!) who were involved in the Duty of Care seminar in London in November for what was a very successful meeting. I also include the speakers who so generously gave of their time and effort. Bill Swann particularly deserves thanks for being the brains behind the programme and speakers, ably and enthusiastically supported by Leisha Hewitt and Becky Whay. I gather from some several “other sources” that it gave attendees and speakers plenty to think about.
The Animal Welfare Bill comes up for debate this parliamentary year, but docking of dogs seems to be being steadfastly ignored. The Kennel Club appears to have thrown its lot in with the dockers, although the logic of their case seems to rest solely on prevention of poor welfare with all its flaws. It is so sad as they have missed an opportunity to do something really positive for dog welfare, as their predecessors did in the early part of the last century over cropping of ears, which, by the way, could also have been defended by the very same arguments as they are using for docking! In my view history will judge them harshly.
The Welfare Quality research programme www.welfarequality.net held its first stakeholder meeting in November. This €17M research project involving 39 research groups in 13 EU countries is important for several reasons, not least of which is that it should result in some practical measurable welfare outcomes for farm animals. These measures are likely to be on-farm and in-abattoir and will be analysed for correlative indices. Feedback to the farmers is an essential educational tool along with benchmarking so that they know where they stand in the overall picture. Sadly, few retailers turned up for the meeting and the food service sector was also poorly represented, but as the project only started in April 2004, no doubt it will gain momentum and a greater interest from these important groups.
The next AWSELVA meeting is to be the ethics weekend in Reeth, Richmond, North Yorkshire, run by Paul Roger, entitled “Ethics, Law and Animal Production”. We have some excellent speakers and topics range from ethical aspects of expert report writing to ethical and religious attitudes to animal production. It should be a thought provoking and challenging weekend. Contact details for Paul are included in the meeting notice in this issue. The following meeting will be “Farm assurance and animal welfare: theory into practice” and will take place next year, probably in April, although the date has yet to be finalised. Watch out for news on the AWSELVA website which is just being revamped. In addition for future meetings, we wish to link up with the specialist divisions of the BVA where our paths cross; so if any of you have some influence please use it.