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Darwinian selection, selective breeding and the welfare of animals

RabbitsUFAW International Symposium 2009

22nd - 23rd June 2009,
University of Bristol, Bristol, UK

The 150th anniversary of the publication of ‘On The Origin of Species…’ is an auspicious time to consider the impacts of natural selection and of our selective breeding of animals on their welfare (see below). The Universities Federation for Animal Welfare is planning a two-day international symposium on this at the University of Bristol in June 2009.

It seems likely that the states of the brain that embody the intensity and duration of consciously perceived unpleasant feelings such as fear and pain are closely regulated through evolutionary scrutiny because, for example, being either too fearful or not fearful enough would be detrimental to evolutionary fitness. Likewise, we would expect that Darwinian (natural) selection would act such that brain states associated with pleasant feelings are regulated to appropriately reward – neither too much nor too little - activities and states that promote evolutionary fitness.

What happens to these finely-engineered carrots and sticks – whose effects and interactions are no less than welfare (quality of life) itself - when selection is not for evolutionary fitness but for traits preferred by we humans in pursuit of ideal companion or laboratory animals, or of greater farm animal production? Where genetic welfare problems have arisen as a consequence of breeding practices, how can these be tackled? The aim of this symposium is to consider these and related issues, and we intend to include sessions on farm, laboratory, companion, zoo and free-living animals.

The speakers are listed below. If you wish to view the full Speaker Abstracts of these papers please click here to download them.

You can also view the Poster Abstracts by clicking here.

Day One: 22nd June (9:00-17:00)

Session 1:

  • JK Kirkwood (UFAW): Introduction to the symposium
  • J Quinn (University of Oxford): The adaptive significance of personality traits in nature
  • P Jensen (University of Linköping): Domestication, selection, behaviour and welfare of animals – genetic mechanisms for rapid response

Session 2:

  • P McGreevy (University of Sydney): Challenges and paradoxes in the companion animal niche
  • RB D’Eath, AB Lawrence, J Conington, IAS Olsson and P Sandøe (Scottish Agricultural College, University of Porto and University of Copenhagen): Breeding for behavioural change in farm animals: practical and ethical considerations
  • M Špinka (Institute of Animal Science, Prague): Domestication effects on animal emotional signalisation: A conceptual model

Session 3:

  • J Yeates, R. ter Meulen and DCJ Main (University of Bristol): Breeding for pleasure: The value of pleasure and pain in evolution and welfare ethics
  • PA Oltenacu and D M Broom (Oklahoma State University and University of Cambridge): The impact of genetic selection for increased milk yield on the welfare of dairy cows
  • MD Cooper and JHM Wrathall (RSPCA): Assurance schemes as a tool to tackle genetic welfare problems in broilers

Session 4:

  • J Hurst (University of Liverpool): On the origin of laboratory mice and consequences for welfare
  • P Honess, MA Griffiths and S Narainapoullé (University of Oxford and Bioculture (Mauritius) Ltd): Selective breeding of primates: Consequences and challenges
  • T Woodfine (Durrell Institute): Wild animal conservation genetics
  •  SP Redrobe and JB Carroll (Bristol Zoological Gardens): Gorilla reproduction in captivity – to assist or not

Drinks reception at Bristol’s City Museum and Art Gallery from 19:00

Day Two: 23rd June (9:30-17:20)

Session 5:

  • LM Collins, L Asher, G Diesel and JF Summers (Royal Veterinary College, UK): Conforming to standards: A review of inherited defects as a consequence of physical conformation in pedigree dogs
  • TB Rodenburg, P Bijma, ED Ellen, R Bergsma, S de Vries, JE Bolhuis, B Kemp and JAM van Arendonk (University of Wageningen and Institute for Pig Genetics, The Netherlands): Breeding amiable animals? Improving farm animal welfare by including social effects into the genetic model
  • PC Trimmer, JAR Marshall, JM McNamara and AI Houston (University of Bristol): A theoretical analysis of the evolution of fear

Session 6:

  • J Conington (Scottish Agricultural College): Natural selection for easier sheep management
  • TW Lewis, JA Woolliams and SC Blott (Animal Health Trust and The Roslin Institute, UK): Optimisation of breeding strategies to reduce the prevalence of inherited disease in pedigree dogs
  • JM Macfarlane, SM Matheson and CM Dwyer (Scottish Agricultural College): Genetic parameters for lamb birth difficulty, vigour and sucking ability in Suffolk sheep
  • JWS Bradshaw and ES Paul (University of Bristol): Is (was) empathy for animals an adaptation?

Session 7:

  • T Mark & P Sandøe (University of Copenhagen): New genomic developments in dairy cattle breeding – the risks and opportunities for health and welfare
  • R Casey and JWS Bradshaw (University of Bristol): Individual differences in behavioural response style in domestic cats
  • SP Turner, R Roehe, RB D’Eath, SH Ison, M Farish, MC Jack and AB Lawrence (Scottish Agricultural College): Selection against pig aggressiveness at regrouping; practical application and implications for long-term behavioural patterns

Session 8:

  • G Mason (University of Guelph): The ‘comparative approach’: Using inter-species variation to test evolutionary and ecological hypotheses about animal welfare
  • FD McMillan (Best Friends Animal Society, USA): Selective breeding in fighting dogs: What have we created?
  • NJ Rooney (University of Bristol): Welfare concerns associated with pedigree dog breeding in the UK

This symposium is the latest in UFAW’s continuing and successful programme of themed international meetings that bring together leading scientists, veterinarians, policy makers and all those with an interest in animals and their welfare. It will take place on the 22nd-23rd June 2009; a drinks reception will also take place at Bristol’s City Museum and Art Gallery on the evening of the 22nd.

It is intended that that the proceedings of this symposium will be published as a special issue of ‘Animal Welfare’.