AVC hosts International Society for Applied Ethology’s 2018 Congress

Bringing together ethological and veterinary research
Wednesday, February 7, 2018
Dr. Michael Cockram and Dr. Greg Keefe display the ISAE crest.

The International Society for Applied Ethology’s (ISAE) 2018 International Congress will take place at the Atlantic Veterinary College (AVC), University of Prince Edward Island, from July 30 to August 3.

The 700-member ISAE is the leading scientific society for the study of the behaviour and welfare of confined or domesticated animals, including companion, farm, zoo, and managed wild animals. This will be only the second time that the congress will be held in Canada and only the fifth time in North America. Registration is now open at isae2018.com/registration/

Since the conference is being held at AVC, it will bring together ethological and veterinary research under the theme, “Ethology for health and welfare,” with a specific session on veterinary aspects of ethology and welfare.

“Both disciplines conduct research to improve animal welfare and have much to gain by increased communication and discussion,” says Dr. Michael Cockram, Chair of Animal Welfare at AVC and chair of the local organizing committee.

The ISAE was formed in 1966 as the Society for Veterinary Ethology when questions were raised about whether the increased productivity of some farming systems restricted the ability of the animals to express their normal behaviour.

Over the last 50 plus years, the ISAE has facilitated a major expansion of diverse research on applied ethology and has contributed to an increased understanding of animal welfare. This research has had a major impact by influencing important changes in livestock production systems and practices to better meet the behavioural and welfare requirements of the animals.

Research on behavioural motivation has increased understanding of the causation of normal and “abnormal” behaviour. Studies on the cognitive abilities and on the feelings and emotions in farm, laboratory, and companion animals have been central in achieving an increased understanding of animal welfare. Studies can show what animals prefer, what they will work to obtain, what they will avoid, and what behavioural and physiological signs are associated with different situations considered to be negative or positive. A current research topic is how to recognise positive emotional states in animals; this will be addressed at the conference under the theme, “play behaviour.”

The conference will also explore a key issue, the boundary between science and ethics that has to be crossed when ethology is applied to animal welfare. It is in the interpretation of the behavioural responses, studied using rigorous scientific methods, where the knowledge of species-specific biology, human analogy on how humans respond in similar situations, and empathy towards animals has to be integrated to reach ethical judgments on animal welfare.

“Applied ethology has affected change in many areas of animal welfare,” says Dr. Cockram. “Examples include designing housing for chickens that provides more space and meets behavioural needs (nest box for egg laying, dust bath, and perch); increased use of environmental enrichment for confined livestock, laboratory, and zoo animals that has reduced repetitive abnormal behaviours; and changes in veal calf and swine production to provide more space, group housing, and improved diet.”

Members of the ISAE provide scientific expertise on committees and working groups that make recommendations on legislation, codes of practice, and guidelines designed to improve animal welfare. For example, they contribute to the National Farm Animal Care Council’s Codes of Practice by participating in the review of the scientific literature on key animal welfare issues.

Anna MacDonald
AVC External Relations Officer
Atlantic Veterinary College
(902) 566-6786
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