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, about what drew him to this issue.

AWF: How did you become interested in your field of work and what made you decide to pursue it?

Jimmy: From childhood I lived by the sea and worked on a farm. As a result I developed a fascination for the farming of animals and the aquatic environment. I opted to go to vet college rather than marine biology but after 6 years in farm animal practice I was fortunate enough to move into the area of veterinary studies related to aquatic animals.

AWF: Can you tell us how your experience applies to the topic you will be discussing at the Discussion Forum?

Jimmy: I have been working in farming aquatic animals or aquaculture since 1986, focusing on health and welfare. Since that time I have experienced massive changes in the industry across 4 continents.

AWF: Why is this topic particularly relevant now and what do you predict will happen in this area in the next 5 years?

Jimmy: There is a constant pressure to produce more food which inevitably leads to intensification of all forms of agriculture. The challenge is to balance the benefits of intensification against the costs to animal welfare.

AWF: What is the biggest challenge in this topic area at the moment?

Jimmy: In my area of aquaculture, we deal with massive populations, approaching ½ million animals in a single cage or pond. It is a constant challenge to protect the welfare of the individual in such populations.

AWF: Is there anything you think we should share with the audience to get them thinking in advance of your discussion?

Jimmy: Number 3 on the NHS 8 tips for healthy eating is “eat more fish, including a portion of oily fish”. How do we do that without productive fish farming?

  • Find out more about the farm welfare debate and the other Discussion Forum sessions.