Fourth Annual Meeting of AWRN

Date: 16/09/2019

University of Bristol



Report on the Fourth Annual Meeting of the AWRN


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 chaired by Tiernan Williams (University of Bristol) with really useful talks from Susanna Mitolo and Luke Williams(BBSRC) on BBSRC funding opportunities, Huw Golledge (UFAW) on UFAW funding opportunities, Cathy Dwyer (SRUC) on international research and teaching funding and Tom Smulders (Newcastle University) on 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! All the speakers then sat on a panel to answer questions from the audience. 

The first session was completed with a very noisy speed networking session, as always many introductions were made in a short space of time and hopefully everyone met at least one person they could connect with later in the meeting. 

During lunchtime the Early Career Researcher Activities and Mentoring Officers had arranged a “Meet the Researcher” session to facilitate ECR’s to interact with established researchers. Thanks so much to all those who participated, I am sure the ECR’s found the session really useful.

The afternoon of Day 1 was kick started with a plenary by Ali Jamil which gave us a fascinating insight into the work that The Brooke do to improve equid welfare in Pakistan. His talk really highlighted the challenges to improving animal welfare globally and the fantastic work that The Brooke undertake to work with communities and motivate them to improve the lives of their animals.

This was followed by short talks where Lizzie Rowe excited us all with plans to develop a “Global Federation of Higher Animal Welfare Assurance”, 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 with rodents. 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 were not able to play her talk to the delegates, but we hope to upload her talk to the website soon. 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 it stimulated the delegates to go and view the posters.

After lunch the delegates were back for the session on Microbiome and Gut-Brain Axis. Phil Burnet 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 nd the Gut-Brain Axis with Phil Burnet 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 and a summary was given to the whole conference by the chairs. The meeting was then brought to a close by Mike Mendl.

Video footage of most of the presentations is now available on the members section of the website, simply log in and then click on the Meeting Presentation tab and choose Annual Meeting 2019 Presentations. 







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