What's on the agenda for AWF’s 2022 Discussion Forum? - Veterinary Practice
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What’s on the agenda for AWF’s 2022 Discussion Forum?

Gene editing, rodent control and “breeding for better welfare” are all on the agenda at AWF’s 2022 Discussion Forum, a day dedicated exclusively to animal welfare

The annual Animal Welfare Foundation (AWF) Discussion Forum is back this year for a day of discussion and debate led by expert speakers on a range of topics, from gene editing to the ethics of pest control. 

One of the most-loved CPD events of the veterinary calendar, the Discussion Forum will see veterinary and animal welfare experts gather for an exciting day dedicated exclusively to animal welfare. The Animal Welfare Foundation (AWF) Discussion Forum event, which is being held in-person for the first time in two years on 11 May at One Great George Street, Westminster, will feature a mixture of fascinating expert presentations, debate and discussion. There will also be the opportunity to network during the day and at an evening reception. Attendees can also join in virtually via an all-day live stream and interactive platform.

The programme has been designed around AWF’s three-year theme “Breeding for better welfare” and includes a debate session on gene editing, which will explore the welfare implications of gene editing, as well as the ethical issues it raises. The debate will consider different aspects such as editing for production, therapeutics, disease control and sustainability. This will be led by panellists Dr Penny Hawkins of the RSPCA’s Animals in Science Department, Matt Leach, the Animal Sciences Group lead at Newcastle University, Professor Bruce Whitelaw, the chair of animal biotechnology and interim director at The Roslin Institute, and Professor Madeleine Campbell, senior lecturer in human-animal interactions and ethics at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC).

“Are some breeds ‘broken’ and in need of welfare rescue?” is the topic for another session at th eAWF 2022 Discussion Forum, under the “breeding for better welfare” theme. This session, which will look at animals such as broiler chickens and extreme brachycephalic breeds, will see Professor Siobhan Mullan, chair of animal welfare and veterinary ethics at the University College Dublin School of Veterinary Medicine, and Dr Dan O’Neill, associate professor of companion animal epidemiology at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) taking to the stage.

The welfare of rodent control session will see Dr Sandra Baker, of the University of Oxford, present her findings from her AWF-funded research project, “An assessment of the relative welfare impacts of different rat control methods”. The session, which will also feature Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Recognised Specialist in Wildlife Medicine Dr Liz Mullineaux on the panel, will consider the ethics of rodent control and how “pests” are defined in various settings including agriculture, and subsequently how they are treated.

Following on from previous popular sessions on the issue of overtreatment in companion animals, the AWF 2022 Discussion Forum’s equine debate will explore overtreatment in companion horses and racehorses, with Certified Clinical Animal Behaviourist Gemma Pearson, RCVS Specialist in Equine Surgery Bruce Bladon, Professor of Veterinary Surgery at the University of Nottingham Sarah Freeman and Equine vet Antony Clements making up the panel.

The opening session for the whole event, “Animal Welfare; Determining our strategy” will see BVA’s President Justine Shotton and AWF’s Chair of Trustees Julian Kupfer take to the stage. They will share their organisations’ achievements and approaches to tackling animal welfare, as well as discussing what issues should be addressed next and how this can be progressed. They will be joined on the panel by Professor Cathy Dwyer, head of the Animal Behaviour and Welfare Team at Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and director of the Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare Education.

Julian Kupfer said: “We are delighted to be able to welcome everyone back to the AWF Discussion Forum in person once again, and we are also thrilled that the virtual element of the day means more people can again join in from all over the world. This is always a highlight in the calendar and this year there are some fascinating sessions, which are sure to encourage much debate and be of genuine interest to whole veterinary community, students and animal welfare professionals.”

Justine Shotton added: “The AWF Discussion Forum is a brilliant opportunity for veterinary professionals to listen to presentations about animal welfare issues which are important and topical today, as well as debating and networking with other experts and professionals. We would encourage as many people as possible to attend, whether virtually or in person, and to get involved with the debates when the opportunity arises. We are very much looking forward to welcoming our panels of expert speakers and hearing the discussions to come.”

Tickets for AWF Discussion Forum 2022 start at £25 for virtual attendees and £50 for in-person attendees. The event will be followed by an evening reception at the Farmers Club. To find out more and book your place visit the website.

You can also follow the conversation on Twitter, at @AWF_VETS and using the hashtag #AWFDebate on the day.

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