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Animals pushed to the limits?

“Have the demands placed on animals for companionship, production and traction pushed them towards their biological limits?”

“How much further is it acceptable to push them?”

This ethical dilemma was debated on June 23 at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC), at CABI-RVC’s fifth symposium on animal welfare.

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The speakers covered a range of current issues faced by veterinarians, farmers and pet owners. Becky Whay, from the University of Bristol, opened with a presentation on the position of working equids in developing countries.

Working in difficult conditions, carrying heavy loads, the animals often work beyond their limits, and having to deal with lameness, heat stress, skin lesions and poor body condition. She said that “as owners have the best insight into the welfare of their animals, their knowledge should be combined with science and research to reach a workable solution”.

RVC’s Rowena Packer dealt with the issue of how companion animals, particularly dogs, have been pushed to the limits by breeding for certain characteristics.

The ethics of advanced veterinary treatments in dogs and cats were explored by Manuel Magalhães-Sant’Ana, from the University of Porto.

Peter Down from the University of Nottingham considered welfare issues associated with increasing milk yield of dairy cows.

In the final presentation, Peter Jinman, chairman of the Farm Animal Welfare Committee (FAWC) considered the need to improve the efficiency of animal production and sustainability to meet the demands of an increasing population, whilst maintaining good standards of animal health and welfare.

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