Animal Welfare Student Scholars’ Meeting 2015

cartoonWednesday 16th December 2015,
Writtle College, Chelmsford, Essex CM1 3RR


Each year, those students who were awarded a UFAW animal welfare student scholarship are invited to present the findings of their studies at an annual meeting that takes place in December. These scholarships, of which upto 20 are awarded annually, seek to encourage interest in animal welfare science and introduce students to the challenges and demands of trying to better understand and improve the way we keep and care for animals.

Hosted this year by Writtle College, Essex, an audience of 50 plus heard talks on a diverse range of species – including macques, Thornback rays and dairy cows and elephants -  and topics, from novel methods of assessing the sex of eggs pre-hatch (Harry Appelby, Writtle College) to whether hens showed inequity aversion (ie reject an unfair outcome) through demonstration of negative behaviour after witnessing another hen receiving a larger food reward than them for the same effort (Chantal Villeneuve, The Royal Veterinary College)*see below for the answer

A number of the talks discussed attempts to use infrared thermomgraphy to assess the welfare of individuals; a relatively new, non-invasive, technique that offers the possibility of early identification of painful conditions such as arthritis. In infrared thermomgraphy a heat sensitive camera takes images of animals and looks for specific surface ‘hotspots’ - areas of the body that show up as hotter than the surrounding tissue and which may be due to increased blood flow to the affected area or indicative of inflammation. As with any new technique, it is important to determine its effectiveness and specificity.

Holly Asquith-Barnes from the Royal Veterinary College was one of these students and in her study she used the camera to establish baseline skin temperature measurements for a range of primate species and whether the technique was sensitive enough to differentiate between primates suffering from osteoarthritis and those without the condition. Using 105 primates from 16 species she that had been trained to present themselves for visual inspection, as part of routine health and husbandry procedures, Holly took images of the primates as they waited for a food reward.

Whilst she found that infrared thermomgraphy (IRT) was able to identify greater temperature differences across arthritic joints than unaffected joints, the degree to which the joints were covered by fur proved a key factor in its effectiveness. She also found that joint temperature was significantly lower in those affected individuals being treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (eg aspirin) indicating that NSAIDs are having a positive effect in reducing inflammation. She concluded that a more effective (and cheaper) measure of arthritis across all species was an assessment of mobility but that IRT might have a role to play for certain species in the future, as part of an assessment of the progression of the arthritis and the effectiveness of treatment..

Palmar view of the right confirmed arthritic carpus (left image) and left healthy carpus (right image) of one individual Eulemur rufifrons


Another interesting study was that carried out by Hayley Reeve (University of St Andrews) into whether rats showed empathy. Gaining greater understanding of how different animals perceive the world and others in it is key to determining what is important to animals and ensuring their welfare. In her study, Hayley looked to replicate elements of a previous study (Bartal et al, 2011 Science 334) that had shown that rats would ‘rescue’ a cagemate who was trapped in a narrow restraint tube likely to cause them distress. Bartal argued that this showed rats showed empathy towards the trapped rat and released them to alleviate their distress. Hayley’s study used a larger chamber that allowed the ‘trapped’ rat to move around but which was not as large as the enclosure on the other side of a separating partition. To release this ‘trapped’ rat, a cagemate needed to make contact with one of two touch sensitive rod that would open the chamber. In her set-up, Hayley found little evidence that the rat in the larger chamber performed the task any quicker with time, as would be predicted by the empathy model. She discussed reasons why her apparatus might have produced this different result and indicated that she is keen to explore this area further.

We’d like to thank all the scholars who spoke at the meeting and the students and staff who listen to talks and ensured that the scholars were asked a good range of probing questions on their studies. Finally a big thank you to Dr Jonathan Amory and Writtle for hosting the meeting.


[* And the answer to whether hens showed inequity aversion is.... possibly, but only if they receive no reward for the work done; the amount/value of the food reward didn’t seem to be a factor.]

Awarded annually, the UFAW Animal Welfare Student Scholarships are open to students at universities and colleges in the UK, and to overseas students studying at institutions that are part of the UFAW LINK scheme. The aim of the scholarships is to enable students to pursue their interests in animal welfare science by providing opportunities to undertake research in this field. Applications for the 2016 student scholarships are currently being invited. Successful scholars receive upto £1600 to support a research project lasting 8-10 weeks. Closing date for their receipt is 28th February. Further details on how to apply can be found on the UFAW website

Recipients of a 2015 Animal Welfare Student Scholarship:

  • Harry Appelby(Writtle College) ‘Evaluation of oestrone sulphate as a pre-hatch indicator of sex in ISA Warren poultry’ under the supervision of Dr Angela Murphy-Thomas, Writtle College
  • Holly Asquith-Barnes(The Royal Veterinary College) ‘Assessing the effectiveness of thermal imaging in the identification of arthritic conditions in non-human primates - A tool for improving welfare’, under the supervision of Dr Troy Gibson, The Royal Veterinary College, UK
  • Alice Barrett(The Royal Veterinary College) ‘Effect of visitor number and noise level on the behaviour of zoo-housed Sulawesi crested macaques(Macaca nigra)’ under the supervision of Dr Charlotte Burn, The Royal Veterinary College, UK
  • Carley Betts(University of Bristol) ‘Do hens prefer signalled or unsignalled food rewards?’ under the supervision of Dr Liz Paul, University of Bristol
  • Harriet Davies(University of Cambridge) ‘Developing methods to assess positive emotions in cattle’ under the supervision of Dr Gareth Pearce, University of Cambridge, UK
  • Jonathon Elgie(University of Glasgow) ‘An investigation into the methods available for the determination of foetal age’, under the supervision of Ms Yusta Noelia, University of Glasgow, UK
  • Edward Fullick(The Royal Veterinary College) ‘The incidence of lead shot in carcasses of game birds and the impact this has on their welfare’, under the supervision of Dr Troy Gibson The Royal Veterinary College, UK
  • Eleanor Greenway(Bangor University) ‘Investigation in food preference and welfare of captive Thornback Rays’, under the supervision of Dr Gavan Cooke, Bangor University, UK
  • Sammy Kay(University of Lincoln) ‘Development of bTB assay for complex biological samples’ under the supervision of Professor Jonathan Cooper, University of Lincoln, UK
  • Alison McGann (University of Glasgow)‘A pilot study to develop behavioural monitoring protocols for post-partum dairy heifers and neonatal calves on a commercial farm’, under the supervision of Miss Nicola Gladden, University of Glasgow, UK
  • Hayley Reeve(University of St Andrews) ‘Do rats have empathy?’ under the supervision of Dr Eric Bowman, University of St Andrews, UK
  • Helena Stokes (The Royal Veterinary College)‘Nocturnal behaviour in orphan juvenile Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) in a rehabilitation centre in Sri Lanka’, under the supervision of Dr Ayona Silva-Fletcher, The Royal Veterinary College, UK and Dr Vijitha Perera, Department of Wildlife, Elephant Transit Home, Sri Lanka
  • Chantal Villeneuve(The Royal Veterinary College) ‘Do domestic chickens show inequity aversion?’ under the supervision of Dr Siobhan Abeyesinghe, The Royal Veterinary College, UK
  • Jack Wooton(University of Chester) ‘Reducing negative effects of tank surface impacts in captive male guppies (Poecilia reticulata)’, under the supervision of Dr Charlotte Hosie, University of Chester, UK


  • Jessica Anderson(Western University of Health Sciences) ‘Assessment of non-contact infrared thermometer measurement sites in birds’, under the supervision of Dr Jose Peralta, Western University of Health Sciences, USA
  • Jorge Ferreira(University of Porto) ‘Anaesthetic aversion in zebrafish’under the supervision of Dr Ana Maria Valentim, University of Porto, Portugal
  • Daniela Haager(University of Natural Resources and Life Science)‘Validation of hock lesions as a welfare indicator in dairy cows - A macroscopic, thermographic and histological study’, under the supervision of Prof Christopher Winckler, University of Natural Resources and Life Science, Austria
  • Florian Mayer(University of Natural Resources and Life Science)‘Behavioural and physiological reaction of sows to temporal crating prior to or after parturition’, under the supervision of Dr Christine Leeb, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Austria



Download a Timetable for the meeting.