Animal Welfare Honours to Professors from Oxford, Cambridge

UK - Professor Marian Dawkins from the University of Oxford and Emeritus Professor Don Broom from Cambridge University are the first people to be honoured with the new Sir Patrick Moore Award by the RSPCA for their work to improve animal welfare.
calendar icon 3 March 2014
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This is a new award in memory of the former astronomer and honorary RSPCA vice president for those who have made an outstanding contribution in the field of animal welfare science.

Marian Dawkins is professor of animal behaviour at the University of Oxford where she heads the Animal Behaviour Research Group.

Much of her research works aims to measure animal welfare and what animals needs and in turn how good farm animal welfare can benefit humans - particularly in developing countries where animals can be seen purely as food rather than sentient beings.

Dr James Yeates, the RSPCA’s Chief Veterinary Officer, said: “Marian has a long standing relationship with the RSPCA which started in the 1970s when RSPCA funded new research into preferences of living environment for animals, specifically hens.

“The research demonstrated the importance of choice testing, by giving the hens different options for environments to live in and monitoring the choices. The findings enabled the now Professor Dawkins to say which ones the hens preferred, in turn, providing the basis for setting the standards to deliver good welfare.

“This form of research is now standard practice within welfare research and something that helps inform development of the RSPCA’s welfare standards across many species.”

Professor Dawkins said: “My work involves research on animal welfare and working with farmers towards high welfare farming that enables farmers to make a living and for me, winning this award means that animal welfare science is now accepted as a scientific discipline.”

Don Broom was instrumental in establishing animal welfare as an area of serious and scientific scholarship.

In 1986, he was appointed the first Professor of Animal Welfare in the world in the Department of Veterinary Medicine, University of Cambridge.

Professor Broom helped the RSPCA secure a large grant from the Tubney Charitable Trust for a research project to help identify suitable open water sources for farmed duck. The research, took account of the previous work of Marian Dawkins, and proved valuable in underpinning the RSPCA’s successful campaign to raise awareness of the importance of farmed ducks having full body access to open water.

Professor Broom won the RSPCA/British Society of Animal Science award for innovative developments in animal welfare in 2001 and in 2007 was presented with the RSPCA Michael Kay award for services to animal welfare in Europe.

Dr Yeates said: “Professor Broom was instrumental in establishing animal welfare as an area of serious and scientific study. He developed one of the most widely used definition of animal welfare and encouraged consideration of the individual animal as separate from productivity and human value.

“His post of Professor of Animal Welfare was the world’s first. He has championed key scientific and ethical principles worldwide leading to significant changes in attitudes, laws and animals' lives.”

Professor Broom said: “I am a longstanding fan of the RSPCA as I think that its emphasis on considering the welfare of individual animals is of great value. In particular, the RSPCA inspectorate and the divisions of the RSPCA involved in factually-based national and international lobbying of governments and other organisations have had substantial beneficial impact on animals.

“Those who work in universities are not often honoured by major national charities. I am grateful for this recognition of my work in animal welfare science and very proud to receive the Sir Patrick Moore award from the RSPCA.”

Channel 5 newsreader and former GMTV presenter Emma Crosby, who presented the awards, said: “Professor Broom’s work championing key scientific and ethical principles has led to significant changes in attitudes, laws and most importantly animals’ lives around the world.

“Professor Dawkin’s research has helped provide evidence to persuade people that animals have feelings which needed to be respected - a view shared by the RSPCA.

“This new award highlights the high value placed by the RSPCA on developments in and application of animal welfare research science and these two professors are very worthy winners.

“In particularly their research into duck farming has proved invaluable to the RSPCA’s successful campaign, Like a Duck to Water, to raise awareness of the need of farmed ducks to be given full body access to bathing water.”

The RSPCA has been presenting awards for about 150 years. This year The Honours includes awards for special merit and ability amongst the charity’s inspectors; humanitarian awards for those who have made an outstanding contribution in the field of animal welfare; and awards for special investigations.

This year winners include:

  • Four Royal Marines and three members of the Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service presented with gallantry medals for saving the pony which had tumbled 80ft down a cliff in February 2013.
  • TV farmer Jimmy Doherty for his work raising awareness of farm animal welfare.
  • 14-year-old Madi Lewis who campaigns for rabbit welfare.
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