Role play and serious debate make for a winning combination
For the last few years one of my yearly highlights has been the Animal Welfare Foundation’s annual forum. I first went when I was asked to give a talk myself about pedigree health problems in dogs. The whole day was fascinating and tackled a wide range of welfare issues across an even wider range of animals. Since then I’ve been every year I can.
This year was superb as always. The speakers are always top experts in their field and because the day covers so many different subjects there is something for everyone. The audience gets plenty of time to discuss and debate the issues after each session and the range of viewpoints you hear is also one of the great aspects of the day. So often you may assume that a particular or controversial welfare issue is a black and white subject but until you hear every side it is impossible to know for sure if your view is actually right. I love the mental stimulation and the chance to remind myself that there is always something to learn in the world of veterinary medicine and welfare.
This year the morning session looked at the vet’s role as animal guardians and covered topics like the use of laboratory animals and whether food assurance schemes can and do make an impact on animal welfare. The most distressing but also empowering talk was from Freda Scott-Park and looked at the relationship between animal abuse and domestic violence. This is a subject I’ve been interested in for some time, especially since having my own children. Vets have a real chance, she told us, to seize ‘the golden moment’. By this she meant that we may often be the first people ever to see vulnerable owners and their pets and offer that first lifeline of support or care. The Links group with which Freda has worked for many years strives to help doctors, vets and other healthcare providers to notice the signs of non-accidental injury or abuse and work with the victims to help them escape their tormenters. Many abusers threaten the lives of animals and children in the household to keep the abused there and thankfully now there are many organisations helping to foster animals in these situations so that the women (or men) and their children can flee to safety.
The final session is always popular and usually a little more light-hearted. Everyone in the audience is given a voting pad and then through some excellent veterinary acting certain role plays are done of potential ethical scenarios you might face in the world of animal welfare. The audience are then given a number of choices of what they would do in that situation and the spread of results and the ensuing discussion are always very surprising. It’s another reminder that even in a room of animal welfare enthusiasts and experts opinions always vary!
The forum always used to be invitation only but this year was the first year anyone could come. It’s always around the 2nd week in May so next year if you’d like to join us I’m sure you’ll find it absolutely fascinating. Keep an eye out early next year on the AWF website for dates and how to apply and maybe I’ll see you there.
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