2016 Discussion Forum

Monday June 6th 2016
One Great George Street
United Kingdom

“The AWF discussion forum just gets better year on year. It's highly valued by all not only for the discussion but the conversations that take place in the margins.” John Blackwell, BVA SVP.

Missed the event? Watch the sessions

The Discussion Forum brings together vets, vet nurses, animal welfare organisations, the media and parliamentarians to confront current welfare issues and inspire change. It offers great networking opportunities that continue into the evening at the joint AWF/BVA reception at the House of Commons.


Plans for next year are already underway. Our observations and your feedback have shown that there’s an appetite for even more debate, so we’re looking into ways to make the discussions more dynamic and inclusive.  


Here are a few of the things we learned this year:

Education and communication came through as key themes of the day.  In the morning we discussed whether these tools are effective enough alone to influence public behaviour and affect the care of NTCAs - a lively discussion taking in various opinions ensued.

In the session on livestock production, Mark White put forward strong views on the vet’s duty to prevent suffering in animals by having access to all available techniques.  There followed a heated debate on current demands for the industry to curb the use of antibiotics, with Mark advising caution and stressing that evidence is critical before changes are made to farming systems.

Following on from this David Main talked about communication and how important it is that vet input is evidence based.  He referred to Kristen Reyher’s work on Motivational Interviewing, a research project funded by AWF.  Her work looks at how communication can be used to engage individuals and persuade them to do the right thing and address real welfare concerns, such as antibiotic use in farm animals.

Sue Lockhart, our supermarket speaker, explained how their work hinges on communication with suppliers, vets and customers.  She noted that in their surveys Animal Welfare consistently appears within the top 10 customer priorities.  She explained ways in which Sainsbury’s is using data, research and collaborative working with farmers and vets to improve current systems.  She also pointed out that the company has had an antimicrobial strategy in place for a number of years, which was ‘very much about reducing antibiotics in the supply chain but doing so responsibly’.  

It was clear from all speakers that the management of farming systems is key to improving animal welfare and that it is here that education, communication and research are essential components. 

In the final session of the day speakers and audience discussed the Animal Welfare Acts, which this year celebrate their 10th anniversary.  Mike Radford opened the debate, suggesting its potential is unfulfilled.  He noted the lack of secondary legislation, the discretionary nature of local authority inspectors to enforce the act and the lack of a central register of disqualification orders. 

Michael Park underlined broad themes in the animal welfare issues of livestock and outlined tools to address them, including care, improvement notices and disqualification orders. 

David Bowles explained that there was an initial increase, followed by a significant decrease in prosecutions under the Act in recent years. He told us that the RSPCA issue non-statutory welfare notices with very high levels of compliance in companion animal species forming part of its education of failing owners.

The short presentation by Freda Scott-Park on the Links Project was very encouraging, as she outlined how the project is going from strength to strength.  It is thanks to the generous financial support from the Margaret Giffen Charitable Trust that this work has been possible.

Some of your feedback:

  • A terrific day talking to different people in different areas all passionate about animal welfare.
  • Always one of the highest quality events of the year.
  • The day has become a firm favourite CPD event.
  • From a student perspective it was interesting to see the views and proposals people had on choices that would potentially alter our future careers.
  • It was extremely well organized and very informative; excellent venue and a good lunch. A good, very long, day!
  • There needs to be more inclusion on the VN role in animal welfare – particularly because VNs play a massive part in client communication, compliance and patient care in practice.