A lot has happened since the last AWSELVA Journal issue. Most notably, we have seen the formation of the European specialisation centre for animal welfare science, ethics and law as part of the European College of Animal Welfare and Behavioural Medicine. AWSELVA members were central to this success, not least Dr Mullan, Professor Morton and Dr Main, just as AWSELVA was vital in setting up the RCVS Certificate and Diploma. The college provides a Europe-wide focus point for veterinary practitioners engaged in animal welfare science, ethics and law. This is something that AWSELVA has long provided in the UK, and the benefits we have enjoyed from AWSELVA can now be shared with continental colleagues.
The college relates animal welfare and behavioural medicine. This is important. On the one hand, animal welfare assessment relies on an appreciation on animal’s behavioural responses to their circumstances as indicators of their feelings, and on ethological considerations of what animals want and are motivated to do or obtain (which, in animal welfare science, has often focused on animals’ “behavioural needs”). On the other hand, the connection can help to ensure that behavioural medicine does not focus on altering animals’ behaviours symptomatically without adequate consideration of their feelings. This can risk harming patients by frustrating their motivations, causing fear and failing to treat the problems that cause undesirable behaviours. There has been a strong historical link between clinical behavioural medicine and animal welfare, and anything that strengthens this connection is highly desirable.
European Colleges encourage the acquisition of specialty training beyond the professional veterinary requirements, which provides a unique opportunity for AWSELVA to fulfil a pan-European pedagogic function. Since the last issue, we have had two fantastic conferences, and there have also been the First International Conference for Veterinary and Animal Ethics (in London, UK) and the First Asian Symposium on Animal Welfare, Ethics and Law (in Hong Kong). Both conferences were extremely inspirational and optimistic. They too reflected the growing appetite for discussion – and action — about animal welfare. Both involved academics engaged in investigation and reflection and practitioners in government, industry and veterinary practice engaged in actually achieving animal welfare improvements more directly. Both conferences also reminded us of the importance of connecting animal welfare with all aspects of veterinary practice, not just behavioural medicine. Many veterinarians involved in animal welfare, ethics and law have moved from practice many years ago, but it is important that the link between animal welfare and veterinary practice is maintained and strengthened.
AWSELVA is responding to the international changes. We have had a new website designed (www.awselva.org.uk), which is essential for improving the scope, penetration, functionality and effectiveness of the Association. We have had a strategic review, based on a major consultation process, which may not have led to major changes, but reminded us that our core values include education and discussion and that, while the name includes “veterinary”, the Association benefits equally from its non-veterinary contributions and from discussions between all its members. We have also produced another issue of the Journal, using a more formal design and format in line with the website changes, and with several excellent papers from the Summer’s AWSELVA conference.
Thanks go to the contributors, reviewers and to Tony Marson at 4 Sheets Design & Print Ltd. We hope you enjoy it.