Last month an exciting new Centre for Animal Welfare Education was officially opened at the University of Edinburgh’s, Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies. The Donkey Sanctuary and the Royal (Dick) Vet School have collaborated on several animal welfare research projects in the past and we have ongoing projects at the moment as well.
Working with universities and research institutes throughout the UK and overseas to share knowledge and disseminate information is a big part of what we do to raise the profile of the donkey and ultimately improve welfare standards.
In 2009 our late founder Dr. Elisabeth Svendsen was awarded the Degree of Doctor Honoris Causa by University of Edinburgh in recognition of decades of pioneering work in the care and welfare of donkeys.
The Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare Education (JMICAWE) hopes to:
- Promote gold standard animal welfare and ethics training.
- Support the development of further animal welfare qualifications and professional learning opportunities.
- Work collaboratively with international universities, in existing and new partnerships, particularly within India and China.
- Provide a hub of expertise on animal welfare issues and engage with politicians and governments with the aim of improving animal welfare and seeking alternatives to the use of animals in research.
The Donkey Sanctuary, along with other organisations working in the field of animal welfare, was invited to attend the opening ceremony and contribute to an exhibition depicting the work we do. We chose to submit two photographs, one taken on a crisp October morning at Paccombe Farm featuring beautiful donkey Bess R and Gabriela Olmos Antillon from the Royal Veterinary College who is with us working on a non-invasive pain assessment project.
The other photo taken in Mexico shows Nicole du Toit (our veterinary pathologist who completed her PhD at Edinburgh in donkey dental anatomy and disease), working with a member of the Sanctuary's Mexico team as part of a joint research project investigating dental disease in working donkeys in Mexico.
Madame Jeanne Marchig visited Edinburgh on Thursday to officially open the JMICAWE Centre and said: "This is a very exciting initiative in which animal welfare will play an integral role in veterinary education. The world needs veterinarians who are not only professionally competent but also compassionate with high ethical values. Vets are at the core of safeguarding animal welfare and through the Centre, they will be provided with the skills necessary to enable their voices to be heard in order to ensure that animals across the world are free from distress, suffering and hunger."
The vision for the new centre is that it will aim for:
- Reduction, Refinement and Replacement of Animals in teaching and research worldwide.
- Healthier animals with a higher quality of life, free from misuse and abuse.
- Changes in European and International Law to substantially improve the status and well-being of animals in society.
Professor Natalie Waran, Director of JMICAWE said: "Enhancing the animal welfare science content and incorporating more opportunity for ethical debate within veterinary education will give veterinary graduates the skills, knowledge and confidence to contribute positively to discussion on animal welfare issues. We are living in an increasingly globalised world and we need to empower veterinary students so that they feel they can be informed animal ambassadors in both a national and international arena."
Past joint research projects with University of Edinburgh have established nutritional requirement baselines in both UK and overseas working donkeys. This has helped enable us to give accurate and useful feeding advice to both our own farm staff, individual donkey owners, other charitable organisations, vets and allied professionals as well as working donkey owners overseas.
We have ongoing work in the field of parasitology with the University of Edinburgh where we are striving to determine the extent of anthelmintic (de-wormer) ‘resistance’ problems faced by many donkey/horse owners, and strategies for coping with this.
An exciting new project involving both the Sanctuary, University of Edinburgh and the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh is underway looking at pulmonary fibrosis – a disease common to both people and donkeys.
Professor Elaine Watson, Dean and Head of The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, said "Improving animal welfare should be one of the main goals of the veterinary profession. The objective of the Centre is to make determined progress towards a situation where all animals are free from distress, suffering and hunger through instruction and training at all levels. We are delighted that we have been given the opportunity to set up this important new Centre and about the role it will play in raising awareness of animal welfare globally."