Report on Fourth Annual Meeting

16th and 17th September - University of Bristol

Mike Mendl, as the Network Lead for AWRN welcomed all the delegates to the Fourth Annual Meeting of the AWRN. We teamed up to update everyone on the work that the network has completed over the past year, before the sessions on Global Animal Welfare started. The first session was on international funding with really useful talks from Susanna Mitolo and Luke Williams (BBSRC funding), Huw Golledge (UFAW funding), Cathy Dwyer (international research and teaching funding) and Tom Smulders (European Training Network funding). Key things we learnt were that UFAW has international funding for small grants that are open to everyone including non-researchers and that we need to be resilient, sometimes even experienced researchers have to submit things three times before they get funded!
The first session was completed with a very noisy speed networking session, as always many introductions made in a short space of time.

 The lunchtime "Meet the Researcher" session saw Early Career Researchers having the chance to sit down and chat with some of the more established researchers, as they had requested last year, hopefully it was helpful for the ECRs, don't forget to let us know if you want this again next year or if you would like us to try something different!

The afternoon started with a great plenary talk by Ali Jamil from The Brooke who gave us a clear picture of the challenges of the fantastic work him and his colleagues do to improve equid welfare in Pakistan. Lizzie Rowe excited us all with plans to develop a "Global Federation of Higher Animal Welfare Assurance" then Emily Haddy talked about the importance of human-animal relationships in welfare and Zoe Raw told us about the EARS tool the Donkey Sanctuary have produced for equid assessments (anyone working with equids may want to get in touch to find out more).
For the final session of Day 1 the delegates split into three breakout groups. There was a packed room of delegates keen to discuss the design of cognitive bias tasks with Andrew Crump and Emily Bethell. In the main lecture theatre Lucy Asher and Karen Spencer discussed different approaches to the new mentoring scheme being launched for the AWRN to develop the best model for everyone involved. Meantime delegates next door were talking about what evidence is needed to encourage everyone to handle their animals with compassion, with Jennifer Wathan from The Brooke.

Day 2 saw Rowena Packer informing delegates about the upcoming AWRN-funded workshop on Companion Animal Welfare Science (more details below). Stephen Wickens then talked about the work UFAW have been doing to internationalise using their Link Scheme. Karen Spencer and Lucy Asher were back to officially launch the new Mentoring Scheme having collated all the ideas gathered in the workshop session in Day 1.

The Spotlight was then onto Behaviour Change Theory and Practice, starting with a fascinating plenary from Jo White helping us all to understand how human behaviour change can make a vital difference in improving animal welfare. Tamzin Furtado followed this up with a practical example of using human behaviour change science to improve owners' approaches to dog training from her work with Dogs Trust. 
After coffee break we heard about New Developments in Animal Welfare Science, firstly Johnny Roughan telling us about the surprisingly long term effects of using tunnel handling. Deborah Butler and Mathilde Valenchon informed us about how the racing industry perceives racehorse welfare. Sadly Maureen Ellis wasn't able to join us for the meeting and technical issues meant we couldn't play her talk to the delegates, but we have a recording now and hope to be able to upload it onto the website with the other talks! Wanda McCormick finished off the session by talking to us about how diets for dogs are changing and whether this is good for the dogs. The session ended with all the poster presenters having 1 minute to tell the delegates why they should come and see their poster, quick fire but hopefully stimulated the delegates to go and view the posters.

After lunch and a good look at the posters the delegates were back for the session on Microbiome and the Gut-Brain Axis. Phil Burnett gave a plenary in which we learnt that probiotics decrease anxiety in rodents and thus that the microbiome could have wide-reaching effects on welfare. Emily Bethell then told us about her preliminary work on the effects of probiotics in macaques. The final session of the meeting was parallel workshops again, with delegates getting to choose from Human Behaviour Change with Jo White, Microbiome and the gut-brain axis with Phil Burnett or the Cost of Caring with Charlotte Burn. There were in depth discussions in all the groups which allowed the delegates to get more involved in each of these subjects.
Videos of all the talks are now on the members only section of the website under Meeting Presentations and you can also get a picture of the event from the Twitter feed, just search for #AWRN2019.