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Animal welfare, human wellbeing and planetary health

Applying a One Welfare framework to companion animal feeding

Explore how the choices we make when we feed our animal companions affects other animals, the environment and even our own wellbeing.

This special Sydney Ideas event celebrates the 9th Annual Robert Dixon Memorial Animal Welfare Symposium, exploring a series of critical questions. What are the consequences for the animals, owners and environment of feeding different foods, including processed foods and synthetic meats? And what are the consequences for the animals, owners and environment of feeding high-energy diets?

Recent research has shown that the energy required to produce food for pet cats and dogs is responsible for releasing millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases. In the United States, cats and dogs consume about 19 percent of the amount of dietary energy that humans do. If our companion animals eat other animals that are carrying infectious diseases, there is also a risk that they can transmit zoonotic diseases to us.

There’s a bigger picture that’s articulated in the One Welfare framework, which recognises the fascinating connections between animal welfare, environmental sustainability and human wellbeing.

We brought together a pet-food manufacturer, veterinary practitioner and holistic diet advocate, zoo nutritionist and nutritional ecologist to discuss the ethical treatment of invasive and native fauna. The conversation was chaired by the RSPCA's Chief science and strategy officer.

This event was presented in collaboration with the Centre for Veterinary Education, in memory of the late Dr Robert Dixon. For many years, Robert held the faculty position of Associate Dean for Animal Welfare while serving on the University's Animal Ethics Committee. 

It was held on Wednesday 28 August, 2019 at the University of Sydney.

The speakers

Michelle joined Taronga Conservation Society Australia in December 2013, and has over 20 years experience in zoo nutrition. 

As Australia’s first and only Zoo Nutritionist, Michelle manages Taronga’s Animal Nutrition Centre, directs Nutrition research, oversees the nutrition of all animals at both of Taronga’s Zoos and consults for zoos, rescue organisations and conservation programs internationally.  

David joined the University in April 2013 as Leonard P Ullmann Chair in Nutritional Ecology. David is a leading expert in nutritional ecology: the discipline that studies how nutrition-related aspects of an animal's environment interact with its biology to determine health and fitness outcomes. His approach is comparative, using ecological and evolutionary diversity to understand these interactions. His studies of insects, fish, birds and a variety of mammals have helped develop a new approach to human nutrition-related problems, such as the dietary causes of obesity.

Roger was appointed as the inaugural President of the Global Alliance of Pet Food Associations (GAPFA) in November 2014 and served in that capacity for 2 years, retiring as required by GAPFA's constitution. During GAPFA's formative years Roger has inspired this global group and its work streams to achieve consensus on a number of pet food safety, nutrition and trade facilitation issues. Application has been made to partner with the world animal health organisation OIE and approaches made to harmonise global standards.

Andrea graduated from the University of Bristol Veterinary School, UK in 2000. She then remained at Bristol Vet School as FAB Lecturer in Feline Medicine until 2011 after which she moved to Sydney where she ran the feline medicine service at Small Animal Specialist Hospital until 2015. Andrea has lectured widely internationally and contributed to numerous textbooks. She has wide interests in all aspects of feline medicine, and is passionate about both providing the best care for her patients, and helping to support other veterinarians to do the same. 

Anne is a lecturer in Veterinary Science at the University of Sydney. Here research interests include all aspects of companion animal practice, in particular general practice, veterinary ethics, companion animal husbandry, the well-being of veterinary team members, evidence-based medicine and interactions between humans and non-human animals in and outside of veterinary clinical contexts.

Bidda is an Honorary Associate with the Sydney School of Veterinary Science. Her research interests focus on improving the welfare of animals in Australian society, from companion animals, animals in sport, native and introduced wild animals, to humane killing and slaughter. Bidda is a regular panellist at the Robert Dixon Memorial Symposia and is co-developing an introductory OLE unit on understanding animal welfare. She has published over 35 reports, book chapters and peer-reviewed articles and has represented animal welfare interests on numerous national committees and as an invited speaker at multiple conferences, workshops and symposia.

Event image credit: by cocoparisienne from Pixabay

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