Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Retired University of Guelph Professor Receives Inaugural Award for Animal Welfare

GUELPH, Ontario July 12, 2011 - University of Guelph News Release

A University of Guelph emeritus professor is the first recipient of an international award recognizing leadership in animal welfare. Ian Duncan received the Medal for Outstanding Contributions from the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW).

The award recognizes exceptional achievements and contributions to the advancement of animal welfare. It’s open to any scientist whose research, teaching, service or advocacy has significantly benefited animals.

Duncan received the honour at the federation’s recent international symposium in the United Kingdom. More than 200 delegates from 24 countries attended.

“Ian Duncan is one of the pioneers of the new direction in animal welfare science that began around 40 years ago with investigation of the animal’s own perspective of its world,” said James Kirkwood, UFAW’s chief executive and scientific director.

“He has had a highly productive career and his work has been very influential. He is well known for promoting the idea that welfare is about animals’ feelings, which has come to be widely accepted. Work by Ian revolutionized the study of poultry behaviour, inspiring scientists and others around the world, and ultimately helped lead to the European Union ban on battery cages.”

Duncan, who was an U of G animal and poultry science professor for 21 years, was one of the first people to bring a scientific approach to solving animal welfare problems.

After studying agriculture at the University of Edinburgh, he pursued PhD research on how laying hens respond to their environment. Hens typically live four or five birds to a cage, with cages stacked three or four tiers high.

“Sometimes scientists work away in a particular area for many years without anyone appearing to pay any attention to what they are saying,” Duncan said. “Such was the case with my suggestion that animal welfare is all to do with what the animal feels. It is therefore hugely rewarding to see this idea now being generally accepted by the scientific community and being acknowledged by this award, for which I am truly grateful.”

Duncan worked for the Poultry Research Centre in Edinburgh, which is part of the institute that cloned the sheep Dolly. He studied poultry behaviour and welfare for 20 years before immigrating to Canada in 1989 and joining the faculty of U of G. He’s published more than 150 scientific papers on animal welfare.

Duncan holds the Emeritus Chair of Animal Welfare at Guelph and is the former director of U of G’s Colonel K.L. Campbell Centre for the Study of Animal Welfare. It was the first Canadian centre dedicated to studying how to improve quality of life for animals.

He received the inaugural Animals and Society Course Award in 2000 from the Humane Society of the United States, North America's largest animal protection organization.

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