Thursday, 29 June 2017

Welcome to Jess Davies, JMICAWE's new veterinary nurse

The Royal Highland Show is the highlight of the Scottish agricultural calendar. This year JMICAWE's veterinary nurse, Hayley Walters, was helping on the University of Edinburgh's stand chatting to the public about veterinary and animal welfare issues, promoting the work that the university does and the courses it offers. Joining her, and only two weeks in to her new job, was Hayley's maternity cover Jess Davies.

Jess has been veterinary nursing for 10 years and has previously worked at Cambridge Vet School, Dick White Referrals in Newmarket and volunteered for The Esther Honey Foundation on the South Pacific island of Rarotonga - the only clinic covering the whole of The Cook Islands and offering free veterinary care to all of its residents. Her patients included cats, dogs and goats and Jess was involved in training new veterinary nurses and supporting newly qualified vets.

'Having recently returned from travelling, working and volunteering overseas, I was ready for a new challenge once I returned to the UK. I am very happy to be in Edinburgh and feel privileged to be involved with the great work that JMICAWE does promoting the welfare of animals and assisting in the education of vets, students, and nurses in many different countries. Changing attitudes towards the way animals are treated, from the harmful use of live dogs and sheep used to teach surgical skills to vet students, to improving inpatient care in veterinary teaching hospitals via a veterinary nurse training programme, is an ongoing effort and I am very proud to be able to use my passion for animal welfare to contribute to this inspirational work.'

We are very pleased to have Jess join our team and her first project is to carry on helping The University of Peradeniya set up Sri Lanka's first ever veterinary nurse (VN) training programme. She will also be leading the project to create the accompanying inaugural Veterinary Nursing Skills Online Course, aimed at student VNs and lecturers working in countries that don't currently have a recognised VN training programme. We wish her all the best and Hayley too as she prepares to leave to have her first baby.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Animal Science in Perugia, Italy

Animal science in Perugia, Italy

Prof Cathy Dwyer attended the 22nd Congress of the Animal Science and Production Association of Italy as a guest speaker between 12th-16th June (

The meeting was held in the ancient and beautiful Umbrian city of Perugia, noted for its wine, jazz and chocolates! An important development of the society over the years has been an increase in the focus and presentation of papers on animal health and welfare, on a diverse range of species from fish, poultry, horses and rabbits to pigs and cattle.

Although somewhat hampered by her non-existent Italian language skills, Cathy learnt a lot about rabbit husbandry, horse-breeding, heat stress and cow calf behaviour in buffalo. She also attended a fascinating talk about the potential for insects to provide high protein food for animals and humans with a low carbon footprint. Of course, insects are already an important food source in free ranging poultry so this innovation may help to provide a more interesting and natural diet for chickens, whilst causing less ethical concerns than other protein sources for animal feeds. The acceptability of insect-based foods for humans is always an interesting discussion topic, with this being a normal food source in some countries and viewed with horror by others. But social science research presented at the congress suggested that, at least with younger Italian consumers, the idea of eating insects was viewed with interest and there was good acceptability at least for the idea. Earthworm burgers did not, however, feature on the Congress menu!   

Thursday, 22 June 2017

JMICAWE Director attends inaugural meeting of EU Animal Welfare Platform in Brussels

Inaugural meeting of the EU Animal Welfare Platform

The EU has developed a new body, the Animal Welfare Platform, as a forum to improve discussion and dialogue on animal welfare between the competent authorities (veterinarians with responsibility to deliver animal welfare improvement in each country), businesses that rely on animals, NGOs and animal groups and scientists.

The inaugural meeting of the platform was held in Brussels on 6th June, and JMICAWE Director, Prof Cathy Dwyer, was one of the small group of scientists from across Europe invited to take part as an independent expert. A particular focus for the platform discussions were around the enforcement of regulations for pig and poultry welfare, as well as discussions about other non-legislative methods to bring about improvements in animal welfare. In addition, how animal welfare standards in the EU can be rolled out to other countries was also an important discussion topic – which may have implications for the UK post-Brexit! However, in addition to pigs and poultry, other issues such as the welfare of small ruminants (sheep and goats), rabbits, horses and puppies were also raised.

Cathy says:

‘It is really good news that the EU has set up this platform and I hope that we can begin to see real change and progress as a result of this initiative. It was exciting to be present at the start of this venture and I look forward to active engagement on all areas of animal welfare policy. The international expertise of JMICAWE in engaging with other countries in animal welfare training and policy will be very important in the activities of the platform.’  

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

JMICAWE vet attends BVA Animal Welfare discussion day

British Veterinary Association's Animal Welfare discussion day highlights
 the vet’s responsibilities for safeguarding animal welfare

Last Monday the BVA’s Animal welfare foundation held their annual discussion day. Starting with a session on challenges for modern pets, speakers looked at the impact of brachycephaly and behaviour problems on the welfare of our companion animals, and the role of the vet in speaking out for animal welfare.

In the afternoon a panel of equine vets outlined the challenges of equine welfare in performance horses. There was a strong focus on welfare being assessed in terms of a horse’s fitness to work, and this contrasted clearly with the previous companion animal welfare session where behavioural and social needs had been considered alongside physical fitness.

The day ended with a session outlining AWF-funded research in production animals which was leading to improvements in welfare for sheep and dairy cattle, with a focus on changing traditional farming approaches to healthcare, in order to improve welfare.

Friday, 2 June 2017

Veterinary Nurse Awareness Month

Veterinary Nurse Awareness Month

May was veterinary nurse awareness month and a good time to re-emphasise how important a well-trained, compassionate veterinary nurse is in improving patient welfare in the clinic.

Veterinary nurses (VNs) are trained for a minimum of two years in the classroom and whilst in practice. They have many responsibilities and skills including care of all inpatients, anaesthetic monitoring, medication administration, blood sampling, X-raying, client education, equipment maintenance, laboratory tests, stock ordering and generally making the vet’s life a whole lot easier! They are a valued member of the veterinary team and contribute enormously to an animal’s positive experience whilst in the clinic.

Whilst veterinary nursing is a recognised profession in many countries around the world, there are many places where the role does not exist and the vet or a helper is expected to perform all of these tasks too. After the success of our two ‘Send a VN’ projects, in which we integrated British VNs into two vet schools in Sri Lanka and India for a week showcasing the  value and skills of a VN,  plans are now well underway in creating Sri Lanka and India’s first ever veterinary nurse training programme.

A VN training programme, run in country by existing local veterinary lecturers, that produced skilled and knowledgeable VNs would result in freeing veterinary doctors to concentrate on more in-depth clinical work, research and teaching and an improvement in patient welfare. Whilst VNs are instrumental in the smooth running of a clinic and are great value for money, it is important to understand that a VN cannot diagnose a patient, prescribe medicines or perform surgery. They act in a supportive role but only after direction from the veterinary doctor. That said, most vets who are used to working with VNs would be lost without a well-trained, skilled, caring nurse by their side and we hope to see this same kind of recognition from the training programmes!