Christmas message

As we approach the end of the year it seems appropriate to pause briefly and take stock. The first year for our new Centre for Animal Welfare has indeed been very busy! A few highlights include:

  • Plans for our forthcoming undergraduate and post-graduate courses in animal welfare are progressing well. Prospectus information about our MSc in Animal Welfare Science, Ethics and Law is here. This course will be available from September 2016, and to maximize accessibility to students located internationally, the course will be entirely distance-learning.

  • Winchester’s new Institute for Value Studies launched a series of fascinating modules examining a diverse range of social issues, including ‘Other Animals: Contemporary Moral Frontiers,’ which explores topics relating to animal ethics.

  • Animal ethics and welfare was also included within a series of lectures forming part of the first year module, Understanding Ethics and Religion.

  • With the Institute for Value Studies we co-hosted our first symposium on an animal welfare issue – in this case, the contentious issue of hunting – on 28 Nov. The symposium was very successful overall, and the presentation videos should be online soon via the symposium website.

  • We welcomed our first PhD student, Madelaine Leitsberger, from Vienna, who is investigating a very important topic within animal ethics, concerning the potential for synergism between rights-based and utilitarian frameworks, and the potential for applications to the animal protection movement. Cooperative efforts within the latter are too often impeded by apparent conflicts between these competing philosophies. We wish her the best of luck!

  • And we were very recently joined by another PhD student, Christine Nellist — who is situated in Winchester’s Department of Theology, Religion and Philosophy. Christine’s project aims to move the focus of Eastern Orthodox debate on the environment, to the animals within that environment. She also aims to provide clarity on animal welfare and suffering issues. It’s so good to see such engagement between the animal welfare and religious communities, and we similarly wish her the best of luck!

  • We entered into a strategic partnership with leading farm animal welfare NGO, Compassion in World Farming. A particular highlight was our opportunity to confer an Honorary Doctorate on Compassion Ambassador, Joyce D’Silva, in recognition of her many years of ground-breaking contributions to the animal welfare field.

    • We’ve continued to publish and present on numerous animal welfare-related topics this year, and have received significant media coverage, including Meridian (regional) TV, radio, print and online coverage. I continue to be asked to comment on such apparently random topics as the use of canine ‘prozac’ and behavioural disorders, cat-napping (i.e. kidnapping – not the relaxation-related activities at which cats excel), animal research, and the merits of conducting surgical interventions on injured wildlife, namely, field voles. It all keeps me on my toes!

Our successes this year could not have been achieved without the support of all of the many friends and colleagues we have worked with. We’ve enjoyed the opportunity to pursue these collaborations, and look forward to many more in 2016 and beyond. A very merry Christmas to you all!

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Prof. Andrew Knight is Director of Winchester's Centre for Animal Welfare