• Written by Jessica Dane (BSc (Hons) Animal Behaviour and Welfare) and Laura Martin (FdSc Animal Management (Animal Behaviour and Welfare))

Back in April, BSc (Hons) and FdSc Animal Behaviour and Welfare students attended a welfare conference held at University Centre Reaseheath. This all-day conference is held every year as a compulsory part of the Animal Welfare Issues module and, this year, we were treated to five extremely interesting talks from five very interesting people.

  • Emily Barrington – The Horse Trust
  • Jim Barrington – The Countryside Alliance
  • Dr Sonya Hill – University of Chester
  • Geoff Hosey – Animal Welfare
  • Maria Nangle – Dolphin Trust

Emily Barrington from The Horse Trust kicked off the day. She told us a little bit about her role as part of the Equine Care team. She told us about some of the residents at the Horse Trust, including Pollyanna. When she arrived at the charity she was in a terrible state of welfare, but with the professional aid and daily care, she is now a happy and healthy horse.

Dr Sonya Hill then graced us with a thrilling talk on bridging the gap between conservation and welfare in zoos. She posed some interesting questions for us as an audience to take away and think about. She also underlined the importance of welfare, for not only the animals in zoos but also for staff and visitors.

Maria Nangle then took the stand. She told us all about Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project. This was extremely interesting and something a little different. Ric’s anti-captivity campaign is the organisation’s primary focus. She told us about plans for a rehabilitation centre for dolphins mistreated in captivity and explained that while there will still be issues with captivity, the animals will be given more appropriate care.

Jim Barrington from The Countryside Alliance was next to take to the stage, he had lots of very interesting points, and was up for a bit of debate from the audience. He was discussing the very controversial topic of hunting for sport and pest control. He gave a very good non-biased talk, explaining clearly the two sides of the issue.

Last to talk was the wonderful Geoff Hosey. Many of the audience was acquainted with his work, as he is an expert on zoo animal welfare. He raised some interesting points about human-animal contact in zoos, and the differences between domestication and taming. He also made us think about animals that are often neglected and encouraged us to go and do our own welfare research in something that has never been done before. There are gaps and a new generation has to fill them. Geoff was very easy to listen to, he made his talk very fun and interesting, which was the perfect way to end the day.

Animal Welfare Conference speakerWhen speaking to other students they said they had learnt a lot from the conference. In particular, they benefited from hearing different perspectives and how these impact the welfare of animals in multiple industries. The students also said that they enjoyed the level of detail the speakers went into, which would help them with further assignments and their revision for the exams.

All the speakers gave us information on how they reached their current positions. This was great from an employability point of view. During a conversation with Sonya Hill, she gave us plenty of advice on how to get experience and fieldwork with primates. This will help us greatly in the future. Furthermore this information created a personal atmosphere.

When we asked the speakers why they had come and what they wanted to achieve, we had a good positive answer. Most of the speakers said they came to Reaseheath College to educate and get an understanding of what students already know. Furthermore, all the speakers said they were keen to promote their work. They were also looking forward to looking around the zoo! Although some of them had been here before the students learned new things; we hope to be able to come again next year!