Who we are

The present committee and officers of the Association are:


Chair, Dr Vanessa Ashall

I am an interdisciplinary health researcher and qualified veterinary surgeon. I am interested in the meaning and significance of human-animal relationships in the context of health and medicine. I am a Member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and a European Specialist in Animal Welfare Science, Ethics and Law. I have 15 years of clinical experience working as a veterinary surgeon in the clinic and in the laboratory. 

My Masters degree in medical ethics and law developed into an interest in the concept of comparative medical ethics and I was awarded a Clinical Fellowship by the Wellcome Trust in 2014 to research the social and ethical implications of using companion animals as living donors of blood and tissue for veterinary use. 

I have published on the ethics and regulation of animal research, veterinary involvement in animal research, informed consent and sociological and ethical aspects of human and animal blood donation. I have influenced policy and practice within the UK and EU through the provision of expert opinion and the development of ethical decision making tools. My current project, funded by the Wellcome Trust, uses the sociological concept of interspecies entanglement to explore end of life care from an innovative interspecies and interdisciplinary perspective.


Senior Vice Chair, Sarah Hulbert

Sarah has an MA from St Andrews University and has been a veterinary and animal science editor at Veterinary Times, CABI books and currently with 5m Publishing where she founded the animal welfare series and commissioned several books on animal welfare and ethics. She has a particular interest in animal welfare, human-animal bond and One Health issues. 



Junior Vice Chair, Dr Karen Hiestand

Karen Hiestand is a lecturer in Veterinary and Animal Ethics at RVC. She has a background in research into human-animal interactions and veterinary ethics and is currently finishing up a PhD in the role of empathy in human-companion animal relationships through the school of Psychology at Sussex University while completing her residency in animal welfare, ethics and law with the European College. Karen originally trained as a vet at Massey University in New Zealand, and has a wide experience of first opinion mixed practice across the UK, shelter medicine, charity practice and population management of companion animals, particularly in TNR/CNR programs overseas. She has always had a strong interest in animal welfare which she built on through an MSc in applied animal behaviour and welfare (Edinburgh), BSc in psychology (Massey), and an MA in medical ethics and law (Keele). She continues to work with the animal charity sector, with whom she maintains close links as a trustee at International Cat Care, and is active on a number of welfare and ethics advisory boards at RVC, University of Sussex and RSPCA.



Treasurer, Dr Ellie Wigham

I graduated from the University of Cambridge Veterinary School in 2015, after which I spent a year in New Zealand working for the Ministry of Primary Industries. Returning to the UK in 2016 to undertake a PhD at the University of Bristol Veterinary School. My thesis was focused on the impact of welfare training on animal welfare and product quality in cattle and poultry slaughter plants. During my time at Bristol, I also started an Animal Welfare, Ethics and Law residency as part of the European College of Animal Welfare and Behavioural Medicine. I sat, and thankfully passed the board exams in November 2022. 


 After my PhD I returned home to Scotland to start a lectureship in Veterinary Public Health at the University of Glasgow Vet School. I spend half of my time teaching and the other half pursuing my research interests, primarily animal welfare at the time of slaughter. When not at work I can be found exploring the Scottish countryside with my dog Reggie or exploring the Glasgow food and drink scene. 


Secretary, Dr Rebecca Smith

Rebecca is a vet and interdisciplinary researcher in the field of human-animal interaction. After working as a small animal vet in clinical practice Rebecca went on to complete her PhD at the University of Liverpool. Rebecca’s research adopts social scientific approaches to study peoples’ decision-making in relation to animal care. Rebecca is now a research associate and her current work uses ethnographic methods to study owners’ and vets’ understanding of, and approaches to, the management of chronic pain in horses. She is interested in exploring the multiple meanings of care and how these are handled in the veterinary context. Alongside her research, Rebecca is undertaking specialist training in welfare, ethics, and law with the European College of Animal Welfare and Behavioural Medicine.


Journal Editor, Emeritus Professor David Morton

David graduated in the middle of the last century from Bristol (1965), obtained his PhD in Liverpool (1970) and then carried out post-doc research in Cambridge until 1978.  After that he worked as a lab animal vet, lecturer in human anatomy and researcher in animal welfare science, law and ethics in Leicester and Birmingham Medical Schools until he retired in 2006.  He consulted for the EU in Research ethics (human and animal) and in animal welfare (EFSA AHW Agency).  He is a founder member of AWSELVA and the ECAWBM and was made a life member of AWSELVA.  He was honoured with a CBE for his national and international contributions to animal welfare science and ethics in 2014. 


Social Media Editor, Dr Sophia Hepple

Sophia qualified from the University of Bristol in 1995 and in 2011 became an RCVS Specialist in Animal Welfare Science, Ethics and Law, having previously taken the RCVS Certificate and Diploma; she is also a European diplomat in ECAWBM (AWSEL). She is a veterinary adviser in the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), responsible for delivery of APHA’s welfare inspection programme for farm animal welfare (including transport, markets and cross compliance inspections).

In her spare time she rears her large brood of over-stocked children with her husband (and vet) Richard in a messy but enriched environment with guinea pigs, stick insects, re-homed end-of-lay hens and a grandchild in Somerset. For relaxing she throws sharp pointy objects at a board or goes foraging to produce a variety of alcoholic infusions, jams and chutneys.


International Liaison, Paul Roger

Paul is a founder member of AWSELVA and holds the RCVS Certificate in AWSEL and has been granted de facto diplomate status by the European College of Animal Welfare and Behavioural Medicine (ECAWBM) in the sub-speciality. He worked in rural agricultural practice for 25 years before leaving to set up a consultancy in Sheep Health and Production (he is an RCVS and European Recognised Specialist in this area) and in Farm Animal Welfare. He is currently an invited independent member of an AWERB for Mars and has been a member of the British Veterinary Association (BVA) Ethics and Welfare group and of the Sheep Health and Welfare Group (which reports to the Animal Health and Welfare Board for England). He particularly enjoys the friendly and frank discussions generated by AWSELVA's meetings and is happy to be part of the Chair's group with the developing impetus that is spreading AWSELVA's development across the EU and beyond. Paul's main interests are around practical implementation and delivery of welfare assessment and the inclusion of these ideas within the farm health plan as well as ethical issues affecting both animals and the veterinary profession.


BVFLA rep, Gosia Jones

Gosia Jones has been a veterinarian for over 20 years. She has been a member of BVFLA, and then AWSELVA, since 2015.

She started her career in a laboratory as a veterinary investigation officer, at the same time working as a veterinary practitioner in a small animal practice. She briefly worked in meat industry, before spending many years in field operations, where she carried out investigations of animal notifiable disease outbreaks, animal welfare incidents and cases involving misuse of medicines.

She then worked as a national veterinary adviser and a deputy disease consultant for bovine tuberculosis in non-bovine species. She currently works in policy on animal health and welfare, and sanitary and phytosanitary measures in international trade. 

Gosia holds Masters of Science in Forensic Science, joining a small number of veterinarians forensically qualified in the UK. Her particular interests are: wildlife crime, bloodstain pattern analysis, fires and explosions, and analysis of trace paint evidence.

Gosia is also a qualified mental health first aider. In her free time she is a keen beekeeper, enjoys playing a guitar, crocheting and knitting, and is an internationally-selling painting and drawing artist, where she donates some of the profits to charities and organisations supporting endangered species and a fight against wildlife crime.


BVFLA rep, Dr Margaret Doyle

Dr. Doyle graduated from the University College Dublin Veterinary Medicine program in 2009. She has been practicing in small animal first opinion practice in Calgary Alberta since graduating. In 2015 She obtained a Masters from the University of Florida specializing in veterinary forensics.

Dr. Doyle established Canada’s first veterinary forensic consulting firm in 2010 providing services from crime scene analysis and photography to live exams and necropsies.  Having since been involved in large scale hoarding seizures, dog fighting investigations, and working with the medical examiners office on files involving human and animal victims. Her work has helped create case law and establish institutions that continue to evolve and elevate animal welfare in Canada.

Dr. Doyle brings a veterinary voice to the Canadian Violence Link Coalition which aims to educate the public and inform legislation around one health initiatives directed to target family and community violence. This coalition, alongside Humane Canada, successfully lobbied the government to amend bestiality laws in Canada and to mandate Violence Link training for judges and justices in every level of court. Dr. Doyle was recognized with a community policing award in 2017 for her work training front line officers, social workers, prosecutors, and veterinarians on the overlap between animal abuse and other forms of violence. Her work was instrumental in helping establish the National Centre for the Prosecution of Animal Cruelty (NCPAC) which houses reference materials for prosecutors and allied professionals across the country.

In 2018 Dr. Doyle was the first person in Canada to be qualified in federal court to provide expert witness testimony in the field of veterinary forensics. She routinely attends court for both prosecution and defense to assist in their understanding of the veterinary aspects of animal involved cases.

As chair of the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association (ABVMA) Animal Welfare Committee she proposed, and saw passed, regulations that mandate the reporting of suspected cases of animal abuse and neglect by veterinarians within the province. Currently she sits as a member of the legislated Hearing Tribunal for the ABVMA playing an important role ensuring self regulation for the profession. 

In 2022 Dr. Doyle was honored to be inducted into the UCD Veterinary College Alumni Hall of Fame.