15th Animal Welfare Student Scholars’ Meeting 2013

scholar writingWednesday 11th December 2013

Royal Veterinary College,
Hawkshead Campus, North Mymms,
Hertfordshire, AL9 7TA

Through its Animal Welfare Student Scholarships, UFAW aims to encourage students to develop their interests in animal welfare and to provide them with an opportunity to conduct relevant research or other (eg educational) projects .

Communicating findings of their research is a valuable part of the student’s learning experience. Accordingly, each year UFAW invites the Scholars of the past year to give a talk about their project at an Animal Welfare Student Scholars’ Meeting. The meetings are informal, friendly events and provide a good opportunity for students to meet others active in the field of animal welfare science.

A few of the topics on this year’s programme included:

  • Devising a protocol to estimate the weight of right whales at sea, to facilitate sedation and disentanglement from life threatening fishing gear entanglement.
  • Assessing emotional states in dairy cattle
  • Widening the spotlight in genetic welfare problems: heritable disorders in selectively bred reptiles
  • Project Splatter: A citizen science project to record wildlife road-kill data in the UK
  • Development of an on-farm welfare assessment protocol for dairy sheep
  • Examining the pathophysiology of captive bolt stunning of alpacas

Meeting report

The annual Animal Welfare Student Scholarship meeting continues to go from strength to strength and there was a feeling amongst those who attended it that this year’s was one of the best. The quality and range of the talks presented by the scholars was impressive and featured talks on the tricky matter of how to weigh an entangled Right whale at sea - so that you can ensure that you administer the correct dose of sedative or medication (Ashley Barratclough, RVC) to the effect of kennel noise on the hearing of dogs (Rebecca Venn; University of Glasgow). For the former, the use of aerial photos to gauge length and width seem to offer a suitable and reasonably accurate way of assessing weight; for the latter stays of over four weeks in re-homing kennels are associated with measurable reduction in cochlear function and thus hearing loss. These and the other talks drew many questions from the large interested audience, who were clearly enjoying the presentations.

arial photo  rehoming graph

One of the most engaging of talks was given by Kirsty French (University of Liverpool) who discussed her work on the use of facial analysis as means of assessing pain in zebrafish – one of the most commonly kept of all laboratory animals. Through some intricate and sophisticated equipment Kirsty had been successful in getting zebrafish to trigger a camera that captured images of their faces. She then used these images to identify measures - changes in the distance between the eyes and the barbells – that could be used as possible indicators of pain resulting from the clipping of fins (a routine procedure used to identify different fish in laboratories). Kirsty also looked at validating a range of other measures too. She expressed hope that it might be possible to scale up and further automate the facial analysis process so that the welfare of zebrafish could be remotely monitored in the large community tanks in which they are usually housed.

fish-facial-analysis

We would like to thank all the student scholars who presented their work and everyone who attended. Particular thanks are extended to Dr Siobhan Abeysinghe and her colleagues from the Centre for Animal Welfare for all their efforts and support of the day, that ensured that it ran so well.