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 hear his thoughts on the subject and what he enjoys most about the Forum.

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

Mike: I have been fascinated by animals from an early age, and particularly animal behaviour. That soon raised questions about how animals see their world, and hence about assessing and improving animal welfare.

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

Mike: Sustainability should now be the paramount goal of global policy, but developments in livestock management are diverse and uncoordinated, with continued growth in production and consumption, varied approaches to intensification and extensification, and the initial rise of plant- and cell-based meat alternatives.

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

Mike: Understanding the behaviour and welfare of livestock is vital if they are to be managed appropriately for economic, ecological and social sustainability. Sustainability is a balancing act. How do we achieve the best balance possible between benefits to people, animals and the environment; between economic, ecological and social needs; between government control and business and individual choice

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

Mike: You can read an interesting article on the subject here: Climate policies 'will transform UK landscape' (BBC News, November 2019) Professor Sir Ian Boyd said climate policies after Brexit will alter the landscape more than most people expect. “There will be many more trees and hedges but far fewer grazing animals as people eat less red meat, he said. The farmers' union, the NFU, rejected his analysis and forecast that there may be more grazing animals, not fewer.

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

Mike: The clue’s in the name: Discussion. It is valuable to discuss questions, rather than presuming we already have the answers.

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