Article: orcas confined within oceanaria

Based on neuroanatomical indices such as brain size and encephalization quotient, orcas are among the most intelligent animals on Earth. They display a range of complex behaviors indicative of social intelligence, but these are difficult to study in the open ocean where protective laws may apply, or in captivity, where access is constrained for commercial and safety reasons. From 1979 to 1980, however, my co-authors were able to interact with juvenile orcas in an unstructured way at San Diego’s SeaWorld facility. They observed in the animals what appeared to be pranks, tests of trust, limited use of tactical deception, emotional self-control, and empathetic behaviors. Their observations were consistent with those of a former Seaworld trainer, and provide important insights into orca cognition, communication, and social intelligence. However, after being trained as performers within Seaworld’s commercial entertainment program, a number of orcas began to exhibit aggressive behaviors. The orcas who previously established apparent friendships with humans were most affected, although significant aggression also occurred in some of their descendants, and among the orcas they lived with. Such oceanaria confinement and commercial use can no longer be considered ethically defensible, given the current understanding of orcas’ advanced cognitive, social, and communicative capacities, and of their behavioral needs. Read the full article in Animals.

Symposium: impacts of ‘Brexit’ on animal welfare

Over 8 billion animals are killed in slaughterhouses and in the fishing industry in the UK each year. What are the likely impacts of ‘Brexit’ on animal welfare - and particularly, on the pain and distress animals experience during slaughter? Join a high profile list of speakers and colleagues at a symposium on Raising Standards at the Time of Slaughter: Analysing the Potential Impact of ‘Brexit’ upon Animal Welfare, in London, on Tuesday 20th September 2016, organised by the Public Policy Exchange. I’ve been asked to chair this event. A 20% early registration discount is available for all bookings received by 19th August 2016.

Article: the unjustified euthanasia request

Being able to release animals from profound suffering smoothly and gently is one of the great privileges of veterinary practice. Unfortunately, however, not all euthanasia requests are well justified. Imagine this scenario: a client brings you a friendly, well-socialised two-year-old male neutered cat named ‘Bob’ for ‘euthanasia’. Apparently they're moving to a new flat that does not allow cats. ‘What a shame,’ you declare. ‘I’m sure he would make a wonderful pet for someone else. Have you thought about rehoming him?’ But the client replies, ‘I couldn’t possibly bear to have someone else own him! Please just put him to sleep.’ What should you do? My detailed answer has just been published in In Practice.

Study: ADHD in children

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects around 2.2% of children worldwide. Many thousands of animals have been used in experiments designed to achieve better understanding and treatment of this disease. But have the benefits been worth the animal lives, and the scientific and financial resources consumed? Based on our systematic review of 211 publications describing relevant animal studies, the answer is 'clearly not!' Our systematic review has just been published in ALTEX.

Presentation: adventures in animal welfare

Homeless dogs, hammerhead sharks and sea turtles: an adventurous journey toward Winchester’s new Centre for Animal Welfare

This coming Wednesday 1st June 2016 I’ll be describing some of my adventures in animal welfare, starting as a Western Australian veterinary student insisting on learning surgery without killing healthy animals, travelling on to a Caribbean island to teach in one of the world’s remotest veterinary schools, and finally, to Winchester, where I arrived in 2015 to establish Winchester’s new Centre for Animal Welfare. I’ll describe some of the controversial and unusual research projects I’ve been involved in along the way, and will outline the interesting activities we have planned for Winchester’s new Centre.

ITP Theology Group
Wednesday 1st June 2016
6.30pm for a 7 p.m. start
West Downs Campus Room 7
University of Winchester
(1 hr south of London from Waterloo station)

Free event, but please contact me if you’ll be attending, for catering purposes. Thanks!