Once again the Association hosted a well attended meeting on the effects of the current economic position on animal welfare. This meeting, held at the Wellcome Foundation meeting rooms in London, brought together speakers on a wide range of topics and finished with a workshop session which was actively and thoughtfully presented as a feedback report at the end of the day. We were also pleased to have the Presidents of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and the British Veterinary Association in the audience during the day, and the report published in the Veterinary Record 167(24) page 921-922 on December 11, 2010 was good publicity for the Association.
‘Education’, ‘training’, ‘continuous professional development’ all refer to means of learning. All veterinary surgeons are obliged to participate in these activities during their working life. Participation can be both an active and a passive process, whether one is the supplier or receiver of knowledge. Currently, many things are remininding me of the importance of education.
Personally, I have had the opportunity to be a trainer for accession Member States, funded through the European Commission’s Technical Assistance and Information Exchange (TAIEX) programme. These workshops/seminars have covered various topics including keeping of calves, pigs, laying hens, fish, and arrangements for transport and slaughter – all of which have minimum standards set out in animal welfare legislation. Some veterinary authorities seem to have difficulty in understanding how to put legislation into practice. Explanatory memoranda and notes for guidance are valuable and helpful documents, but not easy to write. More experienced member states such as UK can help here.
Before Christmas I had the opportunity to visit my alma mater and marvel at the considerable expansion in student numbers, the massive building works which made the Hawkshead campus hard to recognise, and breadth and depth of curriculum now offered to undergraduates. I had a special reason to visit the RVC Animal Welfare Centre and The Lifelong Independent Veterinary Education (LIVE) centre. In the laboratory of LIVE is the legendary haptic cow, conceived, built and programmed by Sarah Heath, a veterinary surgeon. This teaching device enables students to experience a simulated rectal examination of a cow or a horse. The degree of realism was astounding, and what an achievement to fulfilling the 3Rs in the teaching environment. Result – an improvement in the education and practice of veterinary students, and hence a better service totheir clients when qualified, but also positive improvement in animal welfare and removal of any harm to animals kept for teaching practice: An all-round win-win situation.
Under its motto ‘Everyone is responsible’, animal welfare education was the theme of an EU international conference in Brussels in October 2010 at which papers were presented by some AWSELVA members. In an EU 2002 conference ‘Farm Animal Welfare Current Research and Future Direction’ it was reported that both farm animal welfare and product quality improves when the people who care for, transport and handle the animals are well trained, have a positive attitude towards their jobs and the animals, treat the animals with care, and are attentive to their needs. It is therefore vital to educate and inform these people.
FAWC currently has a working group looking at ‘Education, Communication and Knowledge Application in Animal Welfare’ that has yet to publish its findings. We can expect more recommendations and challenges to arise when it reports its findings.
So there is a theme here which stresses the importance of education, learning and application of knowledge. We all need to ensure that this aim is fulfilled. Otherwise we stand the real risk of fulfilling the Chinese proverb — “Each generation will reap what the former generation has sown.” Instead we need to fulfil Rudy Manikan’s (FAO) words — “If you educate a man you educate a person, but if you educate a woman you educate a whole family”. In the case of animal welfare, the ‘woman’ may
range from a child at school, to a livestock producer, to a food retailer, veterinary undergraduates and graduates,
and that the ‘whole family’ which will benefit is a massive population of animals, including humans, which depend on our informed actions and care.
My best wishes for 2011 and I look forward to new events and challenges in the new year of AWSELVA activities.