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UFAW Young Animal Welfare Scientist of the Year

2020 Award Winner

Dr Irene Camerlink

Dr Irene Camerlink, Assistant Professor at the Department of Animal Behaviour, Institute of Genetics and Animal Biotechnology, Polish Academy of Sciences, was our winner in 2020 in recognition of her exceptional work to improve the welfare of pigs.

Irene said: “I started with a BSc in Animal Health Care, followed by an MSc in Animal Production Systems (Animal Sciences) at Wageningen University, the Netherlands. This was followed by a PhD at Wageningen University on the behaviour and productivity of pigs selected for Indirect Genetic Effects. Seeing the behavioural abnormalities and welfare problems in practice always motivated me to keep on searching for ways to improve health and welfare through providing a scientific base for potential solutions.  Interdisciplinary research combining anima and social sciences is herein a main interest, as interdisciplinary work is in my opinion essential to apply science into practice.  More specific research interests are social behaviour of pigs, neurobiology, behavioural genetics, homeopathy, and conflict behaviour.”

On completion of her PhD, Irene moved to Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), where she began as a postdoc researcher on a project on pig aggression with Dr Simon Turner, Senior Researcher in the Animal Behaviour and Welfare Team at SRUC who said: “Irene has been instrumental in supervising work on farmer attitudes, perceptions and willingness-to-pay for welfare benefits. The field of welfare science has rarely interacted with the fields of human behavioural change and agricultural economics. Bringing together these areas is essential. As an academic community, our failure to bring together these fields is at the root of why so many recommendations that ought to improve animal welfare are not implemented by farmers. Irene has been a champion of efforts to understand constraints to farmer behaviour and how we can overcome these to encourage implementation of management techniques that will improve welfare.  

She recently proactively identified the lack of a farmer-focused accessible book describing the current state-of-the-art recommendations on improving common pig welfare related problems. As a result, she is now the editor of a book that I believe will be a go-to resource for farmers.”

After four years in Scotland, Irene moved to the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna to continue with her commitment to studying the behavioural needs of pigs in order to improve their lives.  She is now based at the Institute of Genetics and Animal Biotechnology, Polish Academy of Sciences in Jastrzębiec, Poland.

Professor Jean-Loup Rault, Head of the Institute of Animal Welfare Science at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna nominated Irene for the award.  He said: “In addition to possessing excellent scientist skills, Irene is really driven by the wish to make a change to animal welfare in practice. This is best illustrated by the regular articles that she writes in producer or non-specialist journals to disseminate knowledge in regard to pig welfare and practical means to improve it. This, in my opinion, is Irene’s greater skill on which she excels, and for which we need more people like her to help translate scientific knowledge into animal welfare improvements in the field.”

Her activity to date has been global and she has run animal welfare workshops for farmers in China and elsewhere. She also champions the 3Rs (Replacement, Reduction and Refinement) in animal research and has proactively introduced new methods into her own research to avoid more invasive physiological measurement (eg by the use of non-invasive infrared thermography to assess stress responses and human pin-prick kits for low-stress sampling of blood glucose and lactate).

Research outputs