Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Conference speakers appearing on Perspective and Life Matters

The ABC Radio National Life Matters segment featuring Don Broom and Grahame Coleman, as well as the one with Heather Yeatman and Robyn Kippenberger (RNZSPCA) can now be heard and downloaded from http://www.abc.net.au/rn/lifematters/ .

Another segment with Ian Dacre (WSPA Disaster Team) and Joy Pritchard (Brooke Animal Hospital) will be broadcast in coming weeks.

You can also listen to Peter Sandøe’s ABC Radio National Perspective piece online at
http://www.abc.net.au/rn/perspective/ . We have four Perspective pieces in total which we expect will go to air over the next few weeks.

Prof Sandøe’s piece has also been republished online by ABC News as an Opinion item - see http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/09/09/2359395.htm .

Saturday, August 30, 2008


Australia’s past, present and future approaches to animal welfare will be held up for debate when experts from the fields of science, academia, industry and the wider community gather on the Gold Coast this week.

The occasion is the AAWS08 International Animal Welfare Conference, the first of its kind to be held in Australia.

The conference will be attended by up to 400 delegates including farmers and producers, veterinarians, scientists and researchers, lobbyists, industry and government representatives.

From Australia…

The conference will be opened by Dr John Drinan, Chairman National Consultative Committee on Animal Welfare, Chairman of the AAWS Advisory Committee and Chief Executive Officer of the Dairy Adjustment Authority.

One of Australia’s foremost animal welfare authorities, a Fellow of Animal Health Australia and member of the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy Advisory Committee, Professor Emeritus Ivan Caple from the University of Melbourne will deliver a presentation on the history and progress of animal welfare in Australia.

Chief Scientist for RSPCA Australia Dr Bidda Jones, whose presentation will explore the role of non-government agencies in improving animal welfare.

Professor Margaret Rose will talk about the ethical framework behind the use of animals in research and teaching.

From Europe…

Dr Peter Sandøe is a philosopher and ethicist, Director of the Danish Centre for Bioethics and Risk Assessment at the University of Copenhagen; his presentation on animal welfare in biotechnology is entitled ‘Staying Good while playing God’.

Dr Andrea Gavinelli is Deputy Head, Animal Welfare and Feed Unit in the Directorate General Health and Consumers of the European Commission

From the United Kingdom…

Future knowledge, attitudes and solutions is the topic of the keynote presentation by Professor Donald Broom, the world’s first Professor of Animal Welfare, who has held the post at Cambridge University’s Department of Veterinary Medicine since 1986.

Professor Marian Dawkins will deliver a talk on making sense of animal welfare measures – as Professor of Animal Behaviour at the University of Oxford, she has a long-standing interest in animal consciousness and animal welfare, particularly that of poultry.

Chief Inspector of the Home Office Animals (Scientific Procedures) Inspectorate, former Chair of the Farm Animals Welfare Council and President of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons Dr Judy MacArthur Clark will discuss sustainable improvement in animal welfare.

From the USA…

Providing the USA perspective on animal welfare issues is Dr Chester Gipson, Deputy Administrator for Animal Care in the US Department of Agriculture.

From New Zealand…

Dr David Bayvel is President of the OIE Animal Welfare Working Group and Director of Animal Welfare at MAF Biosecurity NZ – his presentation will address the globalisation of animal welfare from an Aust/NZ perspective.

From India…

Perception and reality of animal welfare in India is the subject of a talk by Professor of Animal Science at Allahabad Agricultural Institute Professor Ashok Rathore.

Dr S. Abdul Rahman is Secretary of the Commonwealth Veterinary Association and will offer a fascinating insight into animal welfare issues on developing countries.

To arrange interviews with speakers or request a media pass to the conference, please contact Jane Speechley: e-mail jane@charismaticcommunications.com.au or phone 0414 354 928.

Friday, August 29, 2008


Dumped doggies and castaway kitties, coping with the cat crisis to the case for creating canines – all this and more will be on the agenda at the inaugural AAWS08 International Animal Welfare Conference

They are our closest living animal companions; they grow with us, share our homes, become part of the family, and help teach us important lessons about life, love, death and compassion.

Yet it’s not often we stop to think about the welfare of companion animals in the community.
Australians have one of the highest levels of pet ownership in the world; but unwanted animals are still surrendered to shelters in their thousands, with the less fortunate subject to abuse and neglect.

Australians require no training, license or permit to keep many kinds of pet, and most states have no enforceable code of practice for their care and housing.

Think about the family dog that is left alone in the backyard for ten hours each day; the stray and hungry cat on the street to which everyone turns a blind eye; the bird that lives its entire life in a small cage, unable to ever stretch its wings and fly; a solitary horse in its paddock day after day.

Are our pets being routinely kept in conditions that don’t meet their physical and behavioural needs, and could therefore be considered cruel?

At the International Animal Welfare Conference, long-time RSPCA Victoria President Dr Hugh Wirth will talk about modern approaches to dealing with the complex issue of animal abandonment.

Canberra-based vet and Chair of the Australian Veterinary Association’s Centre for Companion Animals in the Community Dr Michael Hayward will discuss the complicated legal framework that applies to the care and management of companion animals.

Executive Officer of the Cat Protection Society Dr Carole Webb will deliver a presentation on the successful ‘Who’s for cats?’ campaign, which is addressing the problem of cat overpopulation in Victoria and which is now being expanded into other states.

Dr Gaille Perry from the Delta Society Australia will explore the various methods and exercises used in basic and competition dog obedience training, and discuss the welfare implication of each style – from positive reinforcement to negative punishment, clicker training, ‘dog whispering’ and so on.

Chief Executive Officer of the RNZSPCA Robyn Kippenberger is also visiting from over the Tasman to talk about the ‘One of the Family’ education initiative that is teaching New Zealand’s school children about positive and compassionate attitudes to animals.

Also making the journey from NZ is Prof Kevin Stafford, examining the human-animal bond and the evolution of our relationship and interactions with animals over many centuries.

The AAWS08 International Animal Welfare Conference will be held on the Gold Coast from 31 Aug—3Sept (visit www.daff.gov.au/aaws08).

To arrange interviews with speakers or request a media pass to the conference, contact Jane Speechley: jane@charismaticcommunications.com.au or 0414 354 928.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

News report: New animal testing guidelines developed.

The following article can be found online at http://news.smh.com.au/national/new-animal-testing-guidelines-developed-20080818-3xgl.html

New guidelines designed to minimise pain and suffering of lab animals used in scientific testing have been hailed a step forward by Australia's animal rights groups.

But the animal advocates argue more than a document is needed to drastically curb the practice of experimenting on and training an estimated five million mice, monkeys, pigs and other animals every year.

The guidelines, released on Monday by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), list the latest acceptable methods for minimising pain for animals during experimentation and euthanasia.

It replaces an outdated document released 10 years ago.

NHMRC chief executive Professor Warwick Anderson said the document had attracted international attention due to its world-first focus on animal wellbeing.

"The guidelines are designed to minimise the use of animals in scientific research through focusing on the three Rs - the replacement of animal research with other types of research when possible, reduction of the number of animals used in research and refinement of research techniques to minimise pain and distress," Prof Anderson said.

"When it is necessary to study animals in medical research, all involved have an obligation to care for the animals in the best ways possible."

Glenys Oogjes, executive director of Animals Australia, which campaigns against animal testing, said the new guidelines were much needed to update the pain relieving methods and enrichment strategies research organisations should be using.

"But the issue remains though that while we have these great documents, there is still no compulsory training for new and existing researchers on the laws and the best ways to reduce pain and distress," Ms Oogjes said.

"And they are not trained in the many excellent alternatives, like computer modelling for example, that can do just as good a job in testing without involving animals."

She said the ethics committees involved in research approvals were the safety net for ensuring animal testing was absolutely justified, but members were under time pressure and had limited information about suitable alternatives.

"At the moment, there is a feeling there is far too much animal testing going on because of a lack of knowledge in many quarters ... and, unfortunately, a document, while encouraging, is not going to change that," Ms Oogjes said.

Statistics collated by the Australian Association of Humane Research suggest five million animals, including fish, were used in research in 2005. NSW and Victoria were responsible for 2.3 million and 1.5 million, respectively.

Included are more than 20 types of animals from the most common, like mice, fish, chickens and sheep, to those used less frequently, like cats, dogs, horses and monkeys.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Seminars featuring Donald Broom

Professor Donald Broom, Centre for Animal Welfare and Anthrozoology, University of Cambridge, UK, will be giving two seminars with the University of Queensland's Centre for Animal Welfare and Ethics during his Australian visit.

Seminar: Animal Welfare in relation to Transport
When: 12 noon. Thursday, 4 September, School of Animal Studies lecture theatre, Gatton Campus and again at 1 pm. Friday, 5 September, School of Veterinary Science lower lecture theatre, St Lucia Campus

Members of the public have concern about the welfare of farm animals during transport, especially because they see animals during journeys and reports in the media of transport in which mortality and morbidity are high. The welfare of animals during transport should be assessed using a range of behavioural, physiological and carcass quality measures. Dark firm dry (DFD) meat, pale soft exudative (PSE) meat and injuries such as bruises and skin lesions are indicators of both financial loss and poor welfare. In addition, health is an important part of welfare so the extent of any disease, injury or mortality resulting from, or exacerbated by, transport should be measured. Key factors affecting the welfare of animals during handling and transport, most of which are mentioned in the OIE codes are: attitudes to animals and the need for training of staff; methods of payment of staff; laws and retailers' codes; genetics especially selection for high productivity; rearing conditions and experience; the mixing of animals from different social groups; handling procedures; driving methods; stocking density; increased susceptibility to disease; and increased spread of disease.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Finding Australia’s perfect pet dog; can science improve man’s best friend?

If you could design the perfect dog, what would it look like? Tall, short, fluffy, wiry, black, white, tan or brindle? While animal buyers often look closely at physical characteristics, behavioural traits can make the difference between a dog becoming a much loved and pampered family member, or a mistreated or neglected unwanted animal.

According to researcher Pauleen Bennett science and breeding can be used to produce dogs that have characteristics desired by average dog owners and are well suited to the domestic environment.

“For many people, the dog is the only living animal with which they have any form of regular personal contact and of course, many pet dogs are treated like royalty,” Dr Bennett said.

“Yet, animal welfare shelters are forced to put to death thousands of unwanted dogs each year, and many pets are still subject to cruelty, neglect or inappropriate care. Even the most well-intentioned owner can place their dog’s wellbeing at risk through exposure to the stresses of high density living, anxiety triggered by long hours spent alone, and even obesity or diabetes caused by overfeeding.”

Characteristics which Australian owners want in their pet dogs include being friendly, obedient, affectionate and healthy, while undesirable behaviours included nervousness, destructiveness and excitability.

“Canine behavioural traits are highly heritable, so in theory at least, we can genetically fix desirable characteristics in dog breeds. Just as we have previously produced dogs able to herd sheep or pull sleds, so we should be able to breed dogs better suited to their role as companions.

“Successfully matching the dog, its requirements and behavioural traits with the understanding and desires of the owner should mean the animals are more likely to enjoy good welfare throughout long, healthy and happy lives.”

Dr Bennett will be presenting the findings of her research at the AAWS08 International Animal Welfare Conference on the Gold Coast, August 31—­September 3.

“Now is an exciting time to be working in my area. The whole issue of animal welfare is gaining momentum socially and Australia is well-placed to lead the world in developing socially responsible relationships with animals,

“The most pressing issue, without any doubt, is deciding what we want the future of animals in Australia to be like. The bringing together of experts at a forum like AAWS08 is a great first step to answering that big question – how do we want our animals to experience their lives?

To find out more about AAWS08 or register online, visit www.daff.gov.au/aaws08.

To arrange interviews with speakers or request a media pass to the conference, please contact Jane Speechley: e-mail jane@charismaticcommunications.com.au or phone 0414 354 928.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

News report: 'Psycho' koala killers may have violent pasts: expert

In the wake of several horrifying incidents of koalas being bashed and killed in Queensland, AAWS08 speaker Dr Samara McPhedran was consulted by The Brisbane Times for comment on the possibility that such cruel treatment of animals could indicate the perpetrators had been exposed to or involved in other forms of violence and anti-social behaviours.

Follow the link below to read the full article online:


Comments and discussion are welcomed.