UK government backs key BBSRC animal welfare programme

Red and black Holstein cows are grazing on a cold autumn morning on a meadow in Switzerland

Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) will co-fund research network, for the first time, underlining animal welfare as a high government priority.

The Animal Welfare Research Network (AWRN) was set up with Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) funding in 2015.

Led by Dr Gareth Arnott, senior lecturer at Queen’s University Belfast, the network brings together UK animal welfare researchers and those in related disciplines with professionals from across the sphere, including:

  • industry bodies
  • charities
  • governments.

In recognition of the high priority the UK government places on this issue, for the first time, the network will be co-funded by Defra.

Defra will provide almost £30,000 of funding which is 18.75% of BBSRC’s contribution.

High standards of welfare

Ensuring high standards of welfare for managed animals such as livestock and domestic animals is a top priority for:

  • the UK government
  • the public
  • a wide range of stakeholders.

Decisions about the needs of animals by the UK government and stakeholders must therefore be based on objective scientific research.

Three new bills

In addition to the funding for this network, UK government underlined its support for animal welfare with the announcement in the 2021 Queen’s Speech of three Bills.

This will have a significant impact on the welfare of animals in the UK.

The AWRN shares best practice and knowledge through a variety of engagement events and identifies research gaps and areas where increased focus could strengthen and support UK animal welfare research.

To foster skills and collaboration, the network also facilitates mentoring and training opportunities for early career researchers.

A global frontrunner in animal welfare standards

Professor Melanie Welham, Executive Chair of BBSRC, said:

BBSRC has long recognised the importance of animal welfare and its significance to society as a whole.

We also recognise the vital role UK bioscience plays in continuously improving animal welfare standards.

That’s why BBSRC has funded the Animal Welfare Research Network since its inception in 2015.

The latest investment into the AWRN by Defra makes me extremely proud, because it demonstrates that UK government remains absolutely committed to retaining its position as a global leader in animal welfare standards.

Enhancing research quality, capacity and impact

Dr Gareth Arnott, Senior Lecturer at Queen’s University Belfast and AWRN Network Lead, said:

I’m extremely grateful to BBSRC and Defra for investing in the AWRN and demonstrating their ongoing commitment to enhancing animal welfare research quality, capacity and impact.

The next phase of funding will enable the network to grow, building on the strong foundations laid by our work to date with some crucial new initiatives.

From a new kick-start funding scheme to develop novel animal welfare research ideas, to an early career researcher development scheme encompassing mentoring and funding for lab placements, the new funding means we can increase outreach and engagement to help sustain and develop UK animal welfare research.

Further information

The AWRN brings together the UK animal welfare research community, researchers in related areas and stakeholders with interests in animal welfare.

Its vision is to promote the strength and successes of animal welfare research as a discipline that spans from basic science to implementation.

The network aims to achieve this by:

  • identifying important research topics
  • bolstering collaboration
  • supporting innovative research activities
  • enabling opportunities for mentoring early career researchers
  • finding openings and new funding opportunities
  • creating a forum for sharing and disseminating information.

Top image:  Credit: Frizi, iStock via Getty Images Plus

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