It is my great pleasure to introduce you to part two of Professor Andrew Knight’s guest blog. Andrew is Professor of Animal Welfare and Ethics and Director of the Centre for Animal Welfare at the University of Winchester which launches this Saturday (21st May 6pm). If you would like to join the celebratory event to launch the Centre for Animal Welfare, book your place here and I’ll look forward to seeing you there!
The early years
In 1996 I went back to school, studied with single-minded determination, and was accepted into the veterinary course the following year.
After finishing in 2001 I worked as a small animal veterinarian for nearly a decade, mostly around London. Studying further, I became a veterinary specialist in animal welfare science, ethics and law, accredited by the British, European and American authorities. Animal welfare science involves using scientific methods to assess animals’ welfare in various settings, providing assessments which are robust and defensible. The knowledge so derived informs ethical analysis, and in turn the evolution of animal law and policy.
Since leaving veterinary school it’s been my privilege to have worked with a variety of remarkable individuals and organisations to advance animal welfare. I’ve been able to author publications examining the contributions of the livestock sector to climate change, vegetarian companion animal diets, the animal welfare standards of veterinarians, animal cognitive abilities, and the resultant moral implications. A series of studies examining the contributions to human healthcare of animal experiments formed the basis for my 2010 PhD, and subsequent book The Costs and Benefits of Animal Experiments.
I’ve been fortunate enough to travel the world presenting my work, and to have eaten an amazing array of gourmet vegan food in a variety of countries. And I’ve been particularly privileged to join a small pool of highly qualified people all keen to use their specialised skills and knowledge to advance animal welfare. In 2004 I created Animal Consultants International to advertise our availability, and we’ve since contributed to numerous animal welfare campaigns.
A new Centre for Animal Welfare
In 2015 I was offered the opportunity to establish a new Centre for Animal Welfare at the University of Winchester. The establishment of such academic centres reflects a growing global trend of increased concern for animal welfare. There are now perhaps 20-30 such centres worldwide, which engage in a range of activities aimed at advancing animal welfare within academia and wider society. Our new centre will research and publish on important animal welfare issues. We will hold regular seminars. Our first major symposium on hunting in 2015 attracted considerable interest. We very much look forward to contributing to the advancement of animal welfare within society at large. Celebrities Peter Egan and Heather Mills will speak at the official launch of our Centre on 21st May, which promises to be an exciting event. All are welcome!
Particularly important will be our educational programmes and qualifications. In over two decades supporting animal welfare campaigns internationally, I’ve become convinced of the importance of intelligent, strategic thinking, and of the benefits that can accrue from specialised knowledge and qualifications. All of us involved in this work must be able to provide good quality information about animal welfare problems and their solutions. All of us must be skilled at communicating to diverse stakeholder groups, including politicians and other decision-makers, industry and consumers. All of us should be interested in the science of human behaviour change. And those who really want to be taken seriously should consider relevant professional qualifications.
Forging a career in animal welfare
At Winchester we’re establishing both undergraduate and masters degrees in the field, and hope to offer both from September 2016. Our BA in Animal Welfare and Society is currently undergoing formal evaluation, and our MSc Animal Welfare Science, Ethics and Law has successfully passed this stage and is now accepting enrolments. To maximise the accessibility of the latter to students located internationally, and to those already in employment, the MSc will be offered in distance-learning mode, and part-time enrolment options will be available at affordable prices. Shorter post-graduate diplomas and certificates will also be available. Further information is available here.
I’m delighted to be able to help others forge their own careers in animal welfare. Our graduates will be employable within the growing group of animal welfare charities internationally, as well as in governmental departments dealing with animal welfare policy, and commercial organisations establishing animal welfare standards for their suppliers. They will be able to bring animal welfare expertise to the management of animals in a diverse variety of settings, and will be able to advise on the treatment of behavioural problems. They will, I am certain, really help to make the world a better place for animals.