Centre for Animal Welfare Round-up 2018-19
A round-up of 2018-19 news and events from the Centre for Animal Welfare
June 2019 news
Winchester Animal Welfare student uncovers deadly underground world of dogfighting on Facebook
An MSc student in animal welfare has been working undercover with California-based animal rights organisation Lady Freethinker, to undercover social media's grim underbelly. In a report titled The Deadly Underground World of Dogfighting on Facebook, LFT claims the social media giant breaks its own rules and policies by providing a platform for this form of animal cruelty and exploitation.
Between late 2018 and early 2019, our student, who must remain anonymous to protect their cover, carried out an investigation of Facebook and found many groups, pages and profiles that promoted dog fighting and dog trafficking, with a combined following of over 160,000.
"If nothing is done, cruel breeders will keep selling innocent puppies into dogfighting on Facebook", says the student. "Dogfighters will continue to enjoy a massive platform to glorify this gruesome bloodsport, sending the message to billions of people — including impressionable children as young as 13 — that dogfighting is fun and recreational."
"As a global tool for communication, advocacy, news and commerce, Facebook has a responsibility to block content that induces cruelty to animals, and to ensure that users do not promote violence towards any species. They also have an obligation to reach out to local law enforcement when animal cruelty is reported, and work with government officials to protect these animals."
The investigation was featured in The Guardian and Newsweek, and the report was shared with The Observer. Find out more.
Not just for people: CAW publication success demonstrates rise in interest in plant-based diets for companion animals
Despite having being published less than three years ago (Sept. 2016), our article ‘Vegetarian versus Meat-Based Diets for Companion Animals’ has become the most frequently viewed article of all time in the journal Animals, with well over 31,000 full text views. Animals is a leading peer-reviewed open-access journal devoted entirely to animals, including zoology and veterinary sciences.
"Interest in plant-based diets for humans is rapidly increasing, and interest in such diets for companion animals shows a parallel climb", commented Prof. Andrew Knight, lead author of the articles and CAW Director. "This success also demonstrates the power and importance of open-access publishing for providing easy and rapid access to information on key issues."
And the winner is...
Huge congratulations to our MSc student Emma Simmons, who has won the CAW/CIWF Essay Competition 2019. Her essay ‘What does pregnant horses’ blood have to do with intensive farming?’ described the cruel practice of the exploitation of pregnant mares to produce the serum gonadotrophin (PMSG), used to stimulate and synchronise oestrus in intensively farmed sows within days of giving birth. To find out more about Emma and to read her winning essay, visit the Compassion in World Farming website.
April 2019 news
’Is dehorning of cattle an outdated practice?' asks animal welfare student in new blog
The painful practice of dehorning and disbudding cattle is becoming increasingly unnecessary and can be avoided, argues MSc Animal Welfare Science, Ethics and Law student Alice Oven, in a blog published last month on CAWSEL (Courses for Animal Welfare Science, Ethics and Law). Read the full blog.
March 2019 news
Brexit: a major threat to animal protection
Brexit poses substantial threats to animal protection in the UK, EU and internationally, argues CAW member Dr Steven McCulloch. In a new analysis, published in Animals on 26 March, he argues that "Brexit will result in a reduced political lobby within the EU for progressive animal protection reform. Despite the UK being a progressive animal protection nation, she will have less power to exert this influence to improve animal welfare outside of the EU." Read the full article
CAW publication set to make waves in the world of oceanaria
The 2016 paper ‘Orca Behavior and Subsequent Aggression Associated with Oceanarium Confinement’, co-authored by CAW Director Professor Andrew Knight, has been cited in the recent National Geographic article ‘Orcas don’t do well in captivity. Here’s why’, published on 25 March.
The National Geographic article notes that 'Congressman Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California, has repeatedly introduced a bill to phase out captive orca displays across the U.S. In Canada, a federal bill is poised to pass later this year that would ban all captive cetacean displays — not just orcas, but all dolphins, porpoises, and whales.’
Prof. Knight commented: "Our publication substantially increases the evidence in favour of such bans by providing significant evidence of the advanced cognitive, social and communicative abilities of orcas, and the serious adverse effects on them when confined in oceanaria and used for entertainment purposes. We expect that it would be used in support of any such bans."
February 2019 news
Brexit for animals: big break or disaster?
With Brexit looming large, this month CAW welcomed back Compassion in World Farming CEO and CAW Visiting Professor Philip Lymbery. In his talk, titled 'Brexit for animals: big break or disaster?', he focussed on the future of agriculture, particularly if the UK comes out of the Common Agricultural Policy. He argued in favour of seeing Brexit as an opportunity to advance sustainable, regenerative agricultural practices and advocated rewilding and allowing livestock to graze and eat their natural diet instead of environmentally costly feed crops. He also called on people to eat less meat and to choose free-range, and to make their voices heard: "Get involved, show you care and are compassionate. Join in campaigns and the food revolution. Change will only come through bottom-up pressure."
Professors Philip Lymbery and Andrew Knight by the Centre for Animal Welfare mascotte.
Animal welfare student wins IFAW essay competition
We are delighted to announce that the 2018 CAW/International Fund for Animal Welfare Essay Competition has been won by CAW Master's student Rachel Smith. Her winning essay is titled ‘Luxury, social status and wildlife trade in Asia; can this trend be reversed?’. Find out more on the IFAW website.
January 2019 news
CAW Director Prof. Andrew Knight has received the prestigious Robert Shomer Ethics Award 2019 from the Society for Veterinary Medical Ethics in the USA. Dedicated to the memory of Dr Robert Shomer, co-founder and first President of the Society, the award is given to an individual who has made a significant contribution to veterinary medical ethics, and who has a distinguished career as a leader in this field. Andrew was presented with his award at the VMX 2019 Veterinary Meeting and Expo, one of the world's largest veterinary conferences, in Orlando. Find out more.
CAW launches its own YouTube channel
CAW is delighted to announce the launch of its own dedicated video channel on YouTube. The channel provides short videos about a wide range of animal welfare issues, outstanding student presentations, and speaker videos from CAW conferences and other events. The initiative was supported by a University of Winchester Learning and Teaching Development grant. The videos were developed by Winchester graduate Alexander Carter and MSc Animal Welfare Science, Ethics and Law Student Fellow Samantha Carlson.
"The channel will grow considerably in the coming months, with more animal welfare videos, including by other Centre members, and hopefully, more student and speaker presentations", said CAW Director Prof. Andrew Knight. "This will serve to raise awareness of important animal welfare issues, as well as the animal welfare programmes we offer at Winchester."
CAW Director criticises controversial animal welfare research
CAW Director Professor Andrew Knight has labelled a recent research study performed on monkeys as “disturbing” and “very irresponsible”. The study saw scientists in China edit the genes of five cloned macaques to induce mental illnesses including schizophrenia and depression. Andrew condemned the study for causing suffering to the animals and questioned whether the study would produce any tangible benefits for human patients.
CAW members propose new ethical framework for non-human primate experimentation
A new research paper by CAW members argues that the main ethical framework used to assess and justify experimentation on non-human primates is inadequate for its purpose. In 'Ethical and Scientific Pitfalls Concerning Laboratory Research with Non-Human Primates, and Possible Solutions', primary author Constança Carvalho, a Winchester PhD student based at the University of Lisbon, and CAW Director Professor Andrew Knight, propose a change of framework that would benefit non-human primates and improve research quality.
Guidelines for laboratory animal research rely on the utilitarianism ethical framework, which determines right from wrong by focusing on outcomes. The authors argue this is inadequate and that a deontological approach, used for human-based lab research, is more suitable, since we arguably have moral duties to non-human primates.
The study is published in the journal Animals (Vol 9, Issue 1, January 2019).
December 2018 news
11 Dec. 2018
Fake fur: fake news?
Recent news has highlighted that two major retailers are planning to stop selling real fur as faux fur. The news was brought to light by the BBC Watchdog programme. Here, Winchester animal welfare and ethical fashion experts share their thoughts on the worrying trend of real fur being sold as fake or 'faux' fur, and what can be done about it.
Andrew Knight, CAW Director: “Tighter regulation”
"There have been a number of these reports over the years. Vegan faux furs have become so desirable that some unscrupulous manufacturers are faking them by using real fur. While consumers are far more likely to avoid animal cruelty if they buy a 'faux fur' product than if they bought one labelled as real fur, clearly regulations and inspections surrounding labelling need to be tightened up."
Philip Lymbery, CEO of Compassion in World Farming and CAW Visiting Professor: “Worrying trend”
"This is a real and increasingly worrying trend at the moment. It was something that I discussed recently at a gathering of luxury brands in Paris. Clearly, there needs to be stronger enforcement and the labelling laws around fashion items containing fur of any description need to be relooked at because they are not working at the moment."
Dr Savithri Bartlett, Senior Fellow of Knowledge Exchange and Lecturer in ethical fashion: “Important to keep up the pressure"
"This issue has been highlighted in the press by PETA, who have gone undercover in China and recorded animal cruelty and the deliberate practice of mislabelling fur as faux fur. The fast fashion industry is profit-driven and fickle but they will respond to publicity that has a detrimental impact on their sales, so it is important to keep up the pressure. French Connection, for example, permanently banned the use of angora fur after being bombarded with emails by 100,000 PETA members who demanded they stop using the rabbit fur.” Dr Bartlett was informed that since banning angora wool, the drape and feel of the wool was achieved by means of a combination of animal-free fibres.
“At the high end of the market, luxury brand Burberry has recently announced it has stopped using fox, mink, angora/rabbit and Asiatic raccoon fur; their collection at London Fashion Week in September this year was fur-free (find out more). Tom Ford has recently said he has plans to use only food by-product fur rather than fur from animals bred solely for their pelts. He is sceptical about faux fur, due to its negative environmental impact (find out more). Versace, Gucci, Michael Kors, Armani, Stella McCartney and Vivienne Westwood have also stopped using fur in their seasonal collections, and many high street shops have banned fur from their premises.”
November 2018 news
Recent CAW speaking engagements
CAW members have been extremely active in recent weeks, delivering presentations on animal welfare topics at national and international conferences.
In November, Dr Steven McCulloch delivered three presentations on animals in public policy, at the ECAWBM Annual Congress in Berlin, and the RebLaw UK conference in London.
In October, Professor Andrew Knight delivered a plenary lecture on livestock and climate change, along with several others on animal welfare topics, at the IVSA Animal Welfare Conference at the University of Munich. In the same month, he also delivered presentations on animal welfare careers at the Universities of Cambridge and Nottingham, as part of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons' ‘Fellows on Tour’ lecture tour.
CAW event highlights the dangers and rewards of being on the frontline of rhino conservation
22 Nov. 2018
On 21 Nov. we welcomed Amanda Smith, who presented 'Rhino wars: the dangerous but rewarding frontlines of African rhino conservation'. Of the 26,000 species threatened with extinction, few are more iconic than the rhinoceros. In this gripping presentation from the frontlines of African rhino conservation, Amanda shared her personal stories as a conservation volunteer. She explored factors underpinning the international trade in rhino horn and proposed strategies for mitigating its devastating impacts. She also provided key advice for anyone interested in conservation volunteering in Africa.
Having made a difference to communities in Hampshire for over 30 years as a police officer, Amanda Smith was moved to join the conservation war in South Africa to protect rhinos from poaching. In early 2018 she spent several weeks volunteering with conservationists on the dangerous and heart-breaking but also highly rewarding frontline of rhino conservation.
"Brutal trade for a medicine that does not work"
"Working with orphaned rhinos was the beginning of my personal journey in conservation", said Amanda, pictured above with the CAW mascotte. "Being so close to this iconic species, listening to their adorable but heart-breaking cries, I pledged that I would not give up fighting for them. I will play my part to ensure that there is an end to this brutal trade in their horn for a medicine that does not work."
Amanda's talk has generated a great deal of intererest, with CAW subsequently receiving many requests for further information on rhino conservation volunteering.
Considering the implications of Brexit on animal protection
20 Nov. 2018
With Brexit in the offing, CAW is concerned about the possible negative implications for animal welfare legislation, particularly farmed animals. Over the decades of EU membership, the UK has had a major impact on EU animal protection laws, while as a member state, it has been substantially influenced by EU law.
On 18 Nov., former CAW Acting Director Dr Steven McCulloch published the paper 'Brexit and Animal Protection: Legal and Political Context and a Framework to Assess Impacts on Animal Welfare' in the journal Animals. The paper provides a useful overview of the legal and political context of Brexit and discusses animal protection in the UK and the EU.
"A major threat that Brexit poses is importing lower-welfare meat and dairy products to the UK", writes Dr McCulloch, and he identifies reform of agricultural policy to reward high animal welfare outside of the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) as a major opportunity post-Brexit. He also examines the implications of a hard and soft Brexit.
'Governments should unite to curb meat consumption', says CAW Visiting Professor Philip Lymbery
15 Nov. 2018
In a letter to Nature yesterday, co-signed by CAW Director Prof. Andrew Knight and CAW Associate Member Prof. Neil Messer, CAW Visiting Professor Philip Lymbery makes the forceful point that governments should unite to curb meat consumption if we are to meet our greenhouse gas emissions targets.
“Blaming badgers deflects attention from the main cause of the spread of bovine TB” - Why the government’s handling of bovine tuberculosis is flawed
12 Nov. 2018
In a letter to the Chief Vet Dr Christine Middlemiss, a campaign group of vets has accused Defra of telling "barefaced lies" about the effectiveness of badger culls. Prof. Andrew Knight, CAW Director, is one of the signatories; here he explains the problem with the government's approach.
"Government policy continues to blame the badger for the spread of bovine tuberculosis. However, recent evidence supports the theory that the disease is being spread by infected cattle, especially when moved to new areas. The main test used to certify cattle as free of the disease is an intradermal skin test. Previously, this was thought to be highly sensitive; however, recent evidence indicates it only detects around 50% of infected cows. Hence, around half of infected cows have not been identified using this test, and have often continued to spread the disease within and between cattle herds. Government statements that the disease incidence is falling in some areas have also been shown to be incorrect, with incidence rising and prevalence remaining unchanged or rising.
Blaming badgers deflects attention from the main cause of the spread of bovine TB: other infected cattle. Shooting badgers is demonstrably inhumane – evidence indicates that due to small target areas and difficulties in obtaining a ‘clean kill’, a significant proportion endure prolonged suffering before they die."
The government should come clean about the true sensitivity of the intradermal skin test, and use the more effective tests available. It should stop falsely certifying herds as free of the disease when there is no good evidence that this is the case, and should correctly acknowledge infected cattle as the main sources for the spread of this disease. Most of all, it should end its inhumane policy of badger shooting, in an ineffectual effort to control the spread of bovine TB."
October 2018 news
Prof. Knight was on the expert panel at the October meeting of the All-party Parliamentary Dog Advisory Welfare Group (APDAWG) at the Houses of Parliament on 30 October. The meeting focussed on welfare issues in greyhound racing, and Prof. Knight released his new report Injuries in Racing Greyhounds. Find out more about the APDAWG meeting.
August 2018 news
Professor David Clough, CAW Visiting Professor and Professor of Theological Ethics at the University of Chester, has been awarded funding for a ground-breaking three-year project on the Christian ethics of farmed animal welfare. Read on.
July 2018 news
Congratulations to CAW research student Madelaine Leitsberger, who has passed her PhD viva with no corrections. Her thesis is titled 'Unleashing the synergisms of animal ethics to advance animal protection'. Madelaine's PhD is the first completion in our series of 175 Studentships, fully funded studentships to celebrate the University's 175th anniversary. Find out more about research degrees at Winchester and our studentship opportunities.
CAW report documents plight of New Zealand sows kept in crates
Last month, Prof. Knight’s report Uncaging New Zealand’s Sows: Scrutinising Farrowing Crates was published by SAFE, a leading New Zealand animal advocacy organisation. It documents the plight experienced by around 15,000 New Zealand sows annually, who are confined within metal cages barely larger than their own bodies, in a practice claimed to decrease piglet mortality. The report was delivered to NZ’s Primary Production Select Committee along with SAFE’s own submission. The Committee is reviewing a 112,844-signature petition (the largest in 5 years), delivered to Parliament in March, which requested a ban on sow farrowing crates. See also the related media release, fact sheet and more.
June 2018 news
CAW research features in Images of Research exihibition
CAW research into vegetarian companion animal diets featured prominently in Images of Research, an exhibition celebrating the breadth and impact of research carried out at the University of Winchester. The exhibition was displayed throughout June in the Winchester Discovery Centre, in the heart of the community, and attracted many visitors. It can still be enjoyed as an online exhibition.
May 2018 news
Documentary Eating our Way to Extinction
In May 2018, Prof. Knight was interviewed for a forthcoming cinematic feature documentary called ‘Eating our Way to Extinction’, which looks at the great need for a global shift towards a plant-based diet. The film’s pre-production trailers on Facebook have been viewed over 43 million times and the production's release to a global audience is planned for 2019. "I am excited about this film", commented Prof. Knight. "And about the enormous number of people it will reach, and the good it will do concerning this extremely important topic."
Vegetarianism for companion animals
Also in May, he was interviewed for a forthcoming virtual ‘plant-powered dog food summit’. Prof. Knight is a specialist in vegetarian diets for companion animals; the article 'Vegetarian versus meat-based diets for companion animals', co-written with Madelaine Leitsberger, was the most viewed and downloaded article in the journal Animals for 2016. Extending his research to vegan diets, he recently published 'How to safely veganise your cat or dog' in Green for Life.
CAW joins calls to ban fur imports
In late May, Prof. Knight was one of the signatories of a letter signed by 50 experts calling on the UK government to ban fur imports post-Brexit.
How the Conservatives can use Brexit to improve animal welfare governance – and their image
Through re-shaping animal welfare policy in light of Brexit, the government has an historic opportunity not only to preserve the UK’s position as a global leader in this area, but also to give the Conservatives a name as a progressive party, writes Steven McCulloch in his LSE blog on 11 May. Read on.
April 2018 news
The risks of Brexit to animal welfare
In his Huffpost blog, Dr Steven McCulloch's argues that 'the Conservative government simply must pay no less than full regard to animal welfare'. Read on.
February 2018 news
Annual IFAW & University of Winchester MSc AWSEL Essay Competition: Winners and Runners Up
Hawaii-based Shannon Noelle Rivera has won the CAW/IFAW 2017-18 MSc annual essay competition. Shannon's winning entry Playing Politics with Animals: Corruption in CITES and the International Wildlife Trade is a critique of a CITES, a fundamental piece of the international wildlife regulatory landscape.
Alice Oven, of London, and Holly Hackney of Sussex, have been awarded running up prizes. Alice's essay is titled Why Compassion Must Unify Our Call for Conservation: The Power of Public Support and Protest. Holly wrote A Discussion on Shark Conservation and the Shark Fin Trade. Shannon, Alice and Holly are all MSc Animal Welfare Science, Ethics and Law distance learning students at the University of Winchester. All three essays will be published on the IFAW website. Shannon will be invited to write a guest blog on the IFAW website related to her winning essay. All of the essays were of an excellent standard and congratulations to all three students!
CAW submits response to EFRA Committee and Defra consultation on the Animal Welfare (Sentencing and Sentience) Bill
The Centre for Animal Welfare has submitted responses to consultations on the Animal Welfare (Sentencing and Sentience) Bill to the EFRA Committee and Defra.
The CAW submission calls on the government to not weaken animal protection during Brexit. Thus, Clause 1 of the Bill should effectively transpose Article 13 of the Lisbon Treaty. The CAW response can be found at this link: CAW_response_to_EFRA-2018. The EFRA Committee's published pre-legislative scrutiny refers to 'Animal Welfare Impact Assessment' as a possible model for government accountability for animal welfare policy. Animal Welfare Impact Assessment was a key recommendation in CAW's consultation response. Government recognition of animal sentience and an effective mechanism to pay full regard to animal welfare in formulating and implementing policy are of critical importance to animal welfare and the Centre will continue to focus on this issue.
For 2017 news and events, click here.Back to media centre