Animal Science undergraduates gained an informed insight into the industry they are about to enter thanks to our annual Animal Welfare Conference.

Organised by Alice Cowie and Finn McCully from University Centre Reaseheath’s Faculty of Animal Science, the conference brought together influential speakers from centres of science and learning and covered subjects from the use of animals in organ transplantation to zoo welfare.

Here is a summary by Asher Gilbert, a first year Foundation Degree in Animal Behaviour and Welfare undergraduate, who hopes to follow a career in animal assisted therapy.

The conference started with a thought-provoking talk from University Centre Reaseheath’s Animal Science lecturer; Forrest Taylor. She presented to the group a talk on xenotransplantation (organ transplant between different species) and the key ethical issues brought up by using animals for medical purposes. This talk challenged us to question our own preconceptions as well as giving us an emotional insight into Forrest’s own personal journey of receiving a bovine heart valve.

We then heard from Krista McLennan, a lecturer in Animal Behaviour at the University of Chester, who specialises in the field of animal facial expressional communication. She educated us on the importance of recognising facial expressions in a variety of species, and the methods which are available to us in order to do this. Her talk informed the group of the pioneering research which is currently being carried out to apply this work to sharks.

After lunch we had a talk from Claire Paton from Podencos in Need Scotland. This is a non-profit organisation who specialise in the rescue and rehoming of Podenco-type breeds from Spain into the United Kingdom. Claire spent the hour telling stories and journeys of individual animals, whilst also informing the group of the difficulties and challenges they face during the rescue and rehoming process.

The next talk was from Jim Barrington, an Animal welfare consultant for the Countryside Alliance. After previously working for The League Against Cruel Sports, he now advocates for traditional forms of countryside management such as hunting with hounds and believes that there could be a more welfare-friendly option than more recent methods such as shooting. He also highlighted potential flaws in current legislation around countryside management and the need for change in the law.

The day was concluded with a talk from Geoff Hosey, Hon Professor in Biology from the University of Bolton. He highlighted the importance of human-animal interactions in a variety of contexts such as zoos, agriculture and companion animals. In many situations, the relationship between an animal and a human can have positive impacts on both parties.

However, there are many also many welfare implications related to animal-human relationships which need to be considered. The talk influenced the audience to think about the pros and cons, whilst allowing them to share their views.

“I thoroughly enjoyed the day and it was a privilege to listen to such knowledgeable and thought-provoking speakers. I found the whole day really inspiring and hope to be able to attend again next year.”