Article: unjustified euthanasia request part II

In part II of the scenario recently published, you're a more experienced veterinarian. A junior colleague has accepted a request for a medically-unjustified 'euthanasia', but is now having second thoughts. What would you advise? My answer is now available in In Practice.

Article: Vegetarian versus meat-based diets for companion animals

Are vegetarian companion animal diets safe for cats and dogs? Some studies have indicated nutritional deficiencies in such diets. How do these compare with meat-based diets? Are vegetarian animals more, less or similarly healthy? Additionally, many feel vegetarian companion animal diets are not natural. How much of a concern is this for domesticated animal companions? Finally, for those pet owners that choose to feed vegetarian diets, how might they seek to maximise the health of their animal companions? All of these topics are explored in our article just published in Animals. We review the existing evidence concerning the nutritional soundness of vegetarian and meat-based diets for cats and dogs, and the health status of both groups. Additional information is sourced from the manufacturers of vegetarian companion animal diets. This lengthy article provides the most comprehensive peer-reviewed examination of these topics to date.

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.