Animal welfare charity marks 35 years with exceptional day of thought-provoking debates

18 June 2018

The 2018 AWF Discussion Forum featured inspiring talks on some of the most pressing issues impacting animal welfare today

Over 200 delegates from
the veterinary, animal welfare and academic fields gathered in London on 12 June to
take part in a day of thought-provoking and inspiring discussions on some of
the most pressing issues impacting animal welfare.

As with previous years, the 2018 Animal
Welfare Foundation (AWF) Discussion Forum aimed to pose challenging questions
to the veterinary profession to encourage it to re-evaluate current thinking
and practice, and to discuss possible solutions to enhance animal welfare for
generations to come. Topics at this year's event included the role of insurance
in impacting pets' quality of life, human behaviour change to improve animal
welfare, and pre-purchase consultations for prospective pet owners.

Former Shadow Environment Minister Angela Smith MP, who co-chairs the
government's All-Party Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare, chaired the morning ‘Big Debate'
session, which examined the role that insurance plays in driving higher client
expectations and impacting pets' quality of life and end of life decisions. Panellists
included Sarah Wolfensohn, Professor of Animal Welfare at the University of
Surrey, Stuart Carmichael, Professor of Veterinary Science at University of
Surrey, Robin Hargreaves, past British Veterinary Association (BVA) president
and vet panel lead at Agria Pet Insurance, and Agria managing director Simon
Wheeler. The key takeaway from this ambitious session was that while insurance
facilitates better care, the needs of client, vet and insurer should ultimately
be driven in favour of better animal welfare.

The Q&A
session, chaired by AWF Trustee and BVA Junior Vice President Simon Doherty,
looked to social science for exploring ways to improve animal welfare. Toby
Park from the Behavioural Insights Team and Professor Tony Barnett from the
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine spoke about innovative psychological
methods that could be harnessed to positively change client as well as vet
behaviour. A practical application of these tools was shared by World Horse
Welfare CEO Roly Owers, who discussed his work with the Equine Disease
Coalition on an innovative new project to
improve equine biosecurity.

The afternoon
session, ‘How practice management strategies can benefit animal welfare', was
chaired by James Hutton Institute Honorary Fellow and former AWF Trustee Pete
Goddard. PDSA vet Sean Wensley used the charity's ‘Which Pet?' consultation
framework as an example to explore the idea of dedicated pre-purchase clinics
to educate prospective owners before they chose a pet, while Stephanie
Writer-Davies of the Society of Practicing Veterinary Surgeons looked at how expanding the remit of veterinary practices to
include a broader audience could benefit both animal welfare and business.

Addressing
the audience, AWF Chair of Trustees Chris Laurence said:

“What unites all of us here at
the conference is our concern for animal welfare. Through the Discussion Forum,
we debate difficult issues and explore new ways in which the veterinary
profession might use its position and influence for a broader public
understanding of animal welfare.

“The human animal
relationship is changing, bringing new dynamics to animal welfare and
challenging the way the veterinary profession uses the broad range of skills of
modern vets and nurses. For vets to become leaders in preventative care means
learning new skills and balancing their technical ability with the welfare of
their patients.”

BVA President John Fishwick updated the audience on
the organisation's recent campaign successes on Brexit-related animal welfare
issues. He said: “With less than a year to go before Brexit, it is important
that we continue to raise awareness around the vital role the veterinary
profession plays in upholding animal welfare and to ensure that vets' voices
are heard in new legislation introduced in this area. I was very pleased to
have the opportunity to share BVA's ongoing work at this exceptional conference.”

Following
the event, AWF and BVA held a joint reception at the House of Commons, hosted
by Neil Parish MP, which offered delegates the opportunity to continue
discussing the day's issues with parliamentarians and policymakers.

Related links

Related BVA policy

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