AWSELVA Summer Conference 2012: Animals in Entertainment

26th June 2012

Royal College Street London NW1 0TU United Kingdom

Is it ethical to use animals for our entertainment? Many sports and leisure activities use animals, but while we may enjoy these activities, the animals may not. What are the welfare implications of using animals for entertainment, how is the welfare of these animals assessed and when might we judge that using animals purely for our entertaiment is unethical? AWSELVA's 2012 Summer Conference explored these and other questions with the Association's usual mix of expert input and open debate.

AWSELVA Secretary, Dr Siobhan Mullan, shares her thoughts on the AWSELVA Summer Conference, "That's Entertainment!"

I love AWSELVA meetings for the access to well-informed speakers and the incisive questions raised during audience discussions, and this meeting was a great example of both. Madeleine Campbell from the RVC really made us think about how far we can and should go in our use of horses, often keeping them ‘caged’ and exposing them to risky activities for rider and public entertainment.

Daniel Turner from the Born Free foundation demonstrated brilliantly how we can learn from other sectors as he described the first steps of a ‘Welfare Quality inspired’ assurance scheme for tour operators allowing wild animal encounters by tourists.

We then moved to the film industry with an insightful look at animals in cartoons by Josep Subirana of The Brooke (I’ll never watch Nemo with such innocence again!) and a behind the scenes view of the welfare of real-world animal actors, including over 200 Dalmatian puppies, by vet Peter Scott (PAWSI).

The afternoon was entirely given over to a debate on the rights and wrongs of dog shows. Emma Milne presented her disgust with most aspects of modern beauty pageant dog shows, seeing little hope for meaningful reform in the short-term. By contrast, Alison Skipper gave her experiences of being part of a small reforming step. As a small animal vet she took up a poisoned chalice when she agreed, with fellow practitioner Will Jeffels, to check the health of best-of-breed winning dogs at Crufts for the first time this year, disqualifying many from going on to higher rounds. It gave me so much food for thought about whether a ‘good’ dog show is possible and more broadly about when it’s better to take small steps with our adversaries and when we should just dig our heels in. I can’t wait for the next meeting in the Autumn!


09:30Arrival and coffee
09:55Introduction and welcome. Ed Varley, AWSELVA President
10:00Horsing around: horses in riding, racing and competition. Dr Madeleine Campbell, Royal Veterinary College
10:40Born to be Wild: wildlife tourism. Daniel Turner, Born Free Foundation
11:20Tea/coffee break
11:50Animals in Animation: media’s influences on our perception of animals. Josep Subirana, The Brooke
12:30Celebrity Animals: animals in movie and theatre. Peter Scott, PAWSI
14:10The AWSELVA debate: Dog Showing. Emma Milne, ‘Vets in Practice’ star; Alison Skipper, Crufts Independent Vet & Alfold Veterinary Practice
15:40Tea/coffee break