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animal welfare program

Improving the lives of animals through research, teaching and outreach


Improving the lives of animals … from here Perhaps the greatest legacy of the Animal Welfare Program is the many graduates who have gone on to influential positions where they promote the welfare of animals in business, education, government and the animal protection movement. Some stellar examples: (left to right, from the top)

PhD student bridges animal welfare and conservation “My affinity for animals has really shaped my life and my research interests,” said Liv Baker, a PhD student in the Animal Welfare Program.

Lorna Baird (MSc 2004) is now in Calgary as Executive Director of Alberta Farm Animal Care, a livestock industry organization with the mandate to provide a coordinated approach to advance and promote responsible animal care. Fernando Borderas (PhD 2009), who completed a PhD on the care and health of calves, now teaches at the Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana in his native Mexico City.

Baker, a native of Queens, New York, is currently working on a research project spearheaded by the Institute for Conservation Research of the San Diego Zoo. The project is developing methods to translocate kangaroo rats in the semi-arid region between San Diego and Los Angeles. Considered an endangered species, the kangaroo rat is a longlegged nocturnal rodent. A successful method of translocation would allow animals to be moved from vulnerable areas to safe habitat.

Sara Dubois (MSc 2003), who did her research on wildlife rehabilitation, became the manager of the BC SPCA’s ‘Wild ARC’ wildlife rehabilitation facility and is now the SPCA’s provincial manager of wildlife services.

“Translocations, although well intentioned, are often unsuccessful and as a result individual animals suffer greatly. The stress of the move is also likely to reduce the animal’s ability to survive in the new location,” Baker said, adding that no viable populations had been successfully established by translocation before this research project.

Nicole Fenwick (MSc 2005), drawing on her work experience in the pharmaceutical industry, did research on reducing the use of animals in drug development. She now works with the Canadian Council on Animal Care where her role is to promote Replacement, Reduction and Refinement for animals used in science. Lee Niel (PhD 2006), whose doctoral research focused on laboratory rodents, has been appointed to the newly created Chair in Companion Animal Welfare at the Ontario Veterinary College, funded by a gift from philanthropist Mrs. Mona Campbell.

The project aims to identify the welfare problems that come with translocation, and then find and apply solutions. Baker hopes that successful translocations may be possible as early as 2011. “I’m interested in the interface of conservation and animal welfare,” she said. “I believe that by tending to the welfare of the individual, you can improve the welfare and survival of the whole population.” The cooperation with the Institute for Conservation Research developed out of the workshop on animal welfare and conservation organized by the Program in 2008.

Mitja Sedlbauer (MSc 2005) returned to Ljubljana, Slovenia, as Senior Advisor on animal welfare to the country’s Veterinary Administration. He also chaired the influential Working Group on Animal Welfare of the European Union. Kristen Walker (PhD 2010), who did her doctoral research on the welfare of Steller Sea Lions, has a post-doctoral appointment at the Alberta Veterinary College where she will continue her work on pain management and the welfare of wild animals.

Peter Stratton Memorial Lecture Series Peter R. U. Stratton was a Vancouver businessman and visionary who was so successful in his commercial endeavours that he was able to devote the last 50 years of his long life to philanthropy. An early champion of low-cost housing in Vancouver, Peter campaigned for the passing of Canada’s first Humane Slaughter Act in 1960, and helped to create the Animal Welfare Foundation of Canada in 1965. A bequest by his late wife, Katherine, allowed the Foundation to sponsor an annual lecture in Mr. Stratton’s honour, under the auspices of the UBC Animal Welfare Program. In 2009, Dr. Steve Ross, a senior scientist at Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, gave the Stratton lecture, “Enriching the lives of zoo animals”. In 2010 the Stratton lecture featured Prof. Ian Duncan, Chair in Animal Welfare at the University of Guelph, on the topic “Animal welfare: A recent history, a bright future”. Dr Duncan’s talk was co-sponsored by the BC SPCA.

Applying the research For the past decade UBC’s Animal Welfare Program has been a world leader in research on lameness in dairy cattle and how this can be prevented through improved housing. More recently, we have been working with farmers throughout Canada and the United Sates to help them identify problems on their farms and develop customized solutions that benefit their cows.

Teaching the Animal Teaching the Animal is a new multi-disciplinary book about including animals in university education in fields such as history, religion and law. Profs. Fraser, Weary and von Keyserlingk contributed a chapter describing their two unique third-year courses Animals and Society and Animal Welfare and the Ethics of Animal Use.

The project started on dairy farms in BC’s Fraser Valley where M.Sc. student Kiyomi Ito and visiting scholar Alejandra Barrientos visited 43 farms in 2008, collecting data on lying times, injuries, lameness and barn Alejandra and Kiyomi design and management. Kiyomi and Alejandra were able to use the data to learn more about housing factors that improve cow comfort and reduce lameness on farms, but farmers especially appreciated the individual reports that they received, benchmarking their farms relative to those of their neighbours. These reports helped farmers to identify aspects of housing and management that they could improve. This approach was so successful in BC that we soon began receiving requests to benchmark farms elsewhere in Canada and around the world. To help provide this feedback to dairy farmers, UBC has now partnered with NOVUS International Inc. (an animal nutrition company). NOVUS has provided funding for Alejandra (now completing her M.Sc.) and Kiyomi to benchmark almost 100 farms in California, New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont plus a further 45 dairies in Texas and New Mexico over the next few months. As word of our approach spreads we continue to receive many requests by dairy farmers eager for this type of practical assessment of their farms.

Animal Welfare and Conservation Animal conservation focuses on species, populations and ecological systems. Animal welfare focuses on the well-being of animals as individuals. Traditionally the two fields have been separate and sometimes even in conflict. A special issue of the journal Animal Welfare has now brought together essays on how to achieve both conservation and animal welfare goals in areas such as forestry, fisheries and wildlife management. The essays grew out of an international workshop hosted jointly by the Animal Welfare Program and UBC’s Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies.

“Our long term goal is to provide this type of service to dairy farmers all over the world as we see improving cow comfort on individual dairy farms as a key step in ensuring the sustainability of the dairy industry”, said Ed Gallo, National Manager, Dairy Business Unit, NOVUS. Building upon this success, adjunct professors Anne Marie de Passillé and Jeff Rushen (with funding from the Dairy Farmers of Canada) will now take this benchmarking approach to dairy farms in Quebec, Ontario and Alberta in 2011. We have also started a new on-farm project focussing on calf care working with farmers in BC and Alberta. Here too the aim is to take research expertise from within the Animal Welfare Program to help farmers improve practices on their farms.

Congratulations, Prof. von Keyserlingk!

David Fraser appointed to new national council

Prof. David Fraser has been appointed one of the inaugural members of Canada’s ‘National Farmed Animal Health and Welfare Council’, formed in 2010 to advise the federal and provincial governments and other bodies on measures to protect farm animal health and welfare across the country. The Council includes six senior officials from federal and provincial governments and seven non-government members drawn mostly from the animal industries. Fraser is the only academic. Prof. Fraser has long been a critic of what he has called ‘the patchwork approach of federal, provincial and local programs’ currently in place to protect animal health and welfare across the country. He sees the new Council as the first body with the potential to create a more consistent national approach. The Council met in October, 2010, in Guelph, Ontario. Members selected Dr. Wayne Lees, who is the chief veterinary officer of Manitoba, and Mr. Rob McNabb of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association to co-chair the Council. The Animal Welfare Program is grateful to the BC Veterinary Medical Association, the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, and the National Farm Animal Care Council for proposing Prof. Fraser’s appointment to this new body.

Champagne corks were popped (humanely) to congratulate Marina von Keyserlingk on her promotion to full professor in 2010.

Dan Weary appointed guest professor in Sweden This spring Dan Weary was appointed Guest Professor in the Department of Animal Environment and Health at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU). The Department is located in Skara (south central Sweden) and Uppsala (north of Stockholm). Dan worked in both locations from April to August, 2010. As Guest Professor, Dan lectured students in veterinary medicine and in SLU’s unique undergraduate degree program in Animal Welfare and Behaviour. He also gave invited lectures to industry and veterinary audiences in Sweden, Denmark and Norway, and to the Swedish Board of Agriculture and the pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca. Dan also co-supervised Ph.D. students at Aarhus University in Denmark and at the Norwegian Veterinary Institute in Olso. Sweden has long been considered a leader in policy and research in animal welfare, and SLU has Sweden’s strongest group working on this topic. Dan’s hosts at SLU conduct research on calf rearing systems, the welfare of cattle on pasture, euthanasia, lameness, cognition and emotion, and public attitudes to animal use. These are also important themes of research in UBC’s Animal Welfare Program. Dan’s visit helped to pave the way for future collaborations between UBC and researchers in SLU and elsewhere in Scandinavia.

2010 Year in Review -- UBC Animal Welfare Program  

Improving the lives of animals through research, teaching and outreach. A look back at highlights from 2010.

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