2021 Discussion Forum

Thanks to all who joined us on 15th September 2021 for the first fully virtual Discussion Forum!


Science, Education and Debate form the three pillars of AWF’s approach to improving animal welfare.  Through our annual Discussion Forum we give animal welfare its own platform and tackle controversial issues in a way that encourages self-reflection and inspires our delegates to take action and be advocates for change.

The theme for this year’s event was Protecting animal welfare in a changing world. 

Download the Programme


The 2021 Discussion Forum sessions:

9.10-10.50am: Farming, sustainability and welfare

What are the interactions between farming methods, production systems, sustainability and welfare? 

With the rise in farm focussed technology, the vast availability of health, welfare and production data and the increase in animal-based protein production to supply growing global markets, there has been a rapid increase in intensive farming around the world. Coupled with this, farming operations, herd, flock and group sizes have all increased over recent years in response to competitive pressures for efficient food production.

The UK government has adopted a sustainable intensification agenda for UK livestock agriculture and recent programmes have encouraged the UK to engage with ‘Transforming Food Production’, with a key focus on Carbon Net Zero and sustainability. Efficient food production can be associated with improvements in farming capital infrastructure and livestock monitoring.

However with intensive farming, comes concerns about the impact of large scale livestock, aquaculture and ‘factory’ farming. Public demand is increasingly favouring free range, organic and grazing-based farms and food retailers have introduced premiums for production methods that incorporate such systems. Sustainability can be defined in different ways; one suggestion is that it requires a balance between economics, environmental protection and social acceptability.

So with the drive for cheap, efficient and environment-sparing livestock agriculture continuing to grow, is intensive farming good for both welfare and sustainability?

Speakers: Jimmy Turnbull, David Alvis, Cathy Dwyer, Carmen Hubbard




11.55am-12.55pm: Innovation and Overtreatment – does the desire to innovate compromise                                                          companion animal welfare? 

This debate follows on from our 2019 session on overtreatment where we discussed how some treatments on offer lead to the pet’s quality of life becoming secondary to other pressures such as the owners’ desire to keep the animal going at all costs.

The current RCVS Code of Professional Conduct discusses the term ‘Recognised Veterinary Practice’ and defines it as ‘procedures and techniques performed on animals by veterinary surgeons in the course of their professional duties, which ensure the health and welfare of animals committed to their care.’  But there is no clear dividing line between what is done daily in many practices, especially referral practices, and experimental techniques.  This session seeks to discuss where that dividing line should be and how the process of innovation should be controlled.

Speakers: Eddie Clutton, Karen Humm



2.10-3.55pm: Upholding animal welfare in the face of a pandemic 

This session will be an in-depth exploration of how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected and is continuing to affect animal welfare. We will look at the impact across the profession and discuss specific areas such as how the pandemic is affecting different species and service providers, the new and emerging welfare problems and the impact on welfare charities.
This will be a very interactive discussion, with plenty of opportunity for delegates to share their own experiences and reflect on what they have learned. Together we will consider how we as a profession move forward and what animal welfare will/should look like in our post-covid world.

Speakers: Daniella Dos Santos, Carolyne Crowe, Steven Howard, Peter Jinman





Research updates throughout the day

AWF invests in high quality research with the potential for practical outcomes and long-term benefit to animal welfare.

Find out about research projects on delayed euthanasia and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and learn about what our student researchers have been up to.


  • Improving end-of-life decision making and timely euthanasia of dairy cattle and calves, Joseph Neary
  • Lameness in beef cattle, Jay Tunstall, Karin Mueller
  • Evaluation of delayed euthanasia in cats and dogs using Electronic Health Records,  Carol Gray
  • Pandemic Puppies-Exploring motivations and behaviours of UK owners acquiring puppies during the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown, Rowena Packer
  • Exploring the Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Dog Owners’ Healthcare Seeking Behaviour in Relation to Chronic Conditions in Dogs, Sara Owczarczak-Garstecka


Student researchers:

  • Assessing the prevalence and effect of reusing needles on piglet welfare in the UK, Kathryn Owen
  • The relationship between grimace expressions of dairy cattle and post-mortem dental health; and the implications for welfare in dairy cattle, Jillian Gordon
  • Use of the Animal Welfare Assessment Grid to monitor the effects of enrichment on macaque welfare, Abi Liston
  • Importing overseas rescue dogs: An investigation into issues seen in UK veterinary practice, Tobias Hunter
  • EEHV Detection in Asian Elephant Faeces, Sophie Common
  • The effects of change of keeper and level of human-animal relationship on the behaviour of Kikuyu black-and-white colobus and Scarlet Ibis, Sheryl Bradley

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  1. Eddie Clutton on the topic of overtreatment

    We’ve been speaking to Eddie Clutton, who is speaking in our Innovation and Overtreatment session at this year’s Discussion Forum. Eddie Clutton is an expert in the field of veterinary anaesthesia and will be debating the motion “Uncontrolled treatment innovations are detrimental to welfare” with Karen Humm. Eddie sees overtreatment as a huge problem, which […]
  2. Project in a pandemic: what an AWF student grant taught me about research

    The Covid-19 pandemic has changed our lives in many ways, both personally and professionally. Normal routines had to be adapted, and pre-pandemic plans changed. For our 2020 student grant recipients, this was especially true. In this blog, Kerry Long talks us through her experience of carrying out her project ‘Identifying maternal and post-natal effects on […]
  3. Meet the speakers – Q&A with Jimmy Turnbull

    As the drive for cheap, efficient and environment-sparing livestock agriculture continues to grow, can intensive farming ever be good for both welfare and sustainability? That is just one of the questions we will be asking ourselves at this year’s Discussion Forum. Recently we spoke to Professor Jimmy Turnbull, vet, aquaculture specialist and Discussion Forum speaker, […]
  4. Funding research for better welfare

    AWF funds five new research projects designed to move the dial on key animal welfare issues.
  5. BVNA ‘This is Us 2020’

    Calling vet nurses! We are thrilled to announce that AWF will be hosting a debate as part of BVNA’s ‘This is Us 2020’, a two-day online event dedicated to celebrating veterinary nursing. AWF has previously held animal welfare debates at BVNA Fringe and we welcome the opportunity to continue having these important discussions, but with […]
  6. Completing research in a pandemic – a student’s experience

    Funding student research is an important part of what we do, giving students an insight into the world of research and the opportunity to make a practical difference to animal welfare. In 2019 we granted funding to Sheryl Bradley, an MSc student of International Animal Welfare, Ethics and Law at the University of Edinburgh, for […]
  7. Meet the speakers – Q&A with Dan Brockman

    At this year’s Discussion Forum we will be debating whether uncontrolled treatment innovations are detrimental to animal welfare. As the range of treatments available to our pets becomes more extensive year on year and often increasingly invasive, we want to ask, can this ever be justified? One of our speakers is Professor Dan Brockman, Director of […]
  8. Meet the speakers – Q&A with Mike Appleby

    For this year’s AWF Discussion Forum, taking place on Monday 8th June, we have invited a number of farm welfare experts to debate and discuss whether intensive farming can be good for welfare and sustainability. We caught up with Discussion Forum speaker Mike Appleby, a specialist in behaviour, husbandry and welfare of farm animals, to […]
  9. Despite extensive knowledge, cattle vets are still failing lame cows

    Cattle lameness is still a prevalent issue despite a perceived extensive knowledge base. The need for an open, honest dialogue amongst the veterinary profession on what needs to be done next was why AWF agreed to host a debate on the subject at this year’s BCVA Congress. The motion, ‘Despite extensive scientific knowledge, cattle vets […]
  10. Cattle vets are still failing lame cows – Post debate Q&A with speakers

    What is your interest/experience in the subject? Nick: I have been active as a lameness researcher and veterinary advisor for over 17 years, and with an interest in lameness since before I qualified over 20 years ago. Sara: I already had an interest in cattle lameness when I graduated as a vet nearly 15 years […]