SAC is leading a new, four year, animal welfare research programme involving eleven institutions from nine nations.
Thu, 12 May 2011
SAC’s project co-ordinator is Professor Adroaldo Zanella, a Brazilian animal welfare specialist appointed to the Chair of Animal Health and Welfare. The project SAC and the research partners will be working on includes £3.8 million of EU funding. It is closely tied to SAC welfare research funded by Scottish Government.
The international group of researchers met at SAC’s Edinburgh campus on Wednesday and Thursday 10th & 11th May to finalise arrangements for the programmes four research packages. Amongst the collaborators are researchers from Brazil and the USA, as well Europe. The European representation includes Norway, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Germany and the Czech Republic, as well as England and Scotland. Their individual projects will reflect the conditions and practices in their own areas.
The work will be with sheep, goats, horses, donkey and turkeys. It aims to develop practical, easy to recognise signs or “indicators” of animal welfare that are still based on scientific evidence. Many existing assessments use invasive techniques like blood tests and are impractical to use on farm.
One key focus of the work is pain. Many domesticated animals were prey species in the wild, where showing signs of pain, like lameness, can encourage predator attack. They evolved ways of hiding their pain so farm animals can be suffering long before it is obvious. The new research will develop and refine non-invasive ways of assessing pain, including the effects of diseases such as mastitis, footrot in sheep and goats and laminitis in horses. There will be studies of the attitudes animal keepers have to pain in their stock and other work on how to best manage painful conditions.
Animals are kept in various conditions around the world. This new work will refine our understanding of how the numbers of animals kept in a particular space and the quality of the space allocated can affect their welfare. There will also be studies on the effects good handling and favourable housing have on the development of offspring.
For Professor Adroaldo Zanella a key aim of this international, multi-centre project is to establish a global research and teaching hub or school. It will be a “virtual environment” resource, bringing together existing knowledge and practice for students, teachers, legislators, producers and consumers, to raise animal welfare standards across the globe.
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