Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Small animal vets can help large animals too!

Brumbies need help too.
SAT is about small animals, the term usually referring to companion animals of the mostly canine and feline variety. But large animals can be companion animals too, and small animal vets like feline specialist Andrea Harvey are very capable of looking after large animals (or for some people, small large animals) – including brumbies! Dr Harvey recently established the Brumby Working Group and explains why here.

[This issue is important whether you're into small animals, large animals or don't worry about the distinction - it asks important questions about the evidence base for animal welfare, and the role of veterinarians in advocating for animals].

What is the Brumby working group?
The Brumby Working Group is a newly established group within Sentient, The Veterinary Institute for AnimalEthics, set up for veterinarians, animal scientists, students, professionals and non-professionals alike, with an interest in the welfare of Australia's wild Brumbies.

Why was it formed?
I developed an interest in Brumbies after having adopted 6 Brumbies from the Save The Brumby Inc charity.  Having become a keen supporter of the charity and advocate of the Australian Brumby, I wanted to find out more about Brumbies, their welfare and population management strategies.    Brumbies face many unique welfare issues, and it quickly became evident in my research that the veterinary profession was poorly represented in debates on how to manage the Australian Brumby population and in advocating for their needs.   Furthermore, it became evident that there did not seem to be much evidence base for decisions that are continually being made regarding their management.  

Surprisingly, not much research has been done into populations, their control, and welfare assessments of currently utilised methods of population control. Where research has been done, it is not always independent peer reviewed work, whilst other research has been quite fragmented and not necessarily directed towards population management or optimising welfare.  There are pockets of work being done by small numbers of people, but it can be quite difficult to find out information, and it is largely the Brumby interest groups and rescue organisations that are advocating on behalf of their welfare, with little input from the veterinary profession.   

The reason for forming the Brumby Working Group is to try and bridge this gap, and hope to provide a mechanism for the veterinary profession to have more input into decisions that ultimately influence the welfare of these unique wild horses.  

Hero, Sonic and James Brown living the dream.
What is its role?
My ultimate vision for the group is to become a central resource of scientific information about Brumbies, and with time to become considered the 'go to' organisation for welfare and scientific advice regarding their management.  This is quite a tall order though, and the aim for the immediate term is to try and bring together veterinarians and animal scientists with an interest and expertise in different areas, to gather information and form strategic alliances with other groups including scientific research groups, Brumby interest groups and rescue organisations, and to advocate on behalf of their welfare to government and environmental groups.  In the longer term we would like the group to facilitate and compile research into specific areas that will advance the welfare of Brumbies and be involved in developing policies for their management.  

What are some of the key welfare issues?

Key welfare issues include claims of their negative impact on the environment, leading to decisions that they should be removed from many areas, mass aerial shooting to cull large populations, limited alternative options for population control such as fertility control and passive trapping and adoption programmes, the fragmented approach to advocating for their needs, and the lack of independent scientific evidence upon which to base decisions about humane management 

The boys again.
Who can get involved?
The Brumby Working Group of Sentient, The Veterinary Institute for Animal Ethics is specifically for veterinarians and other animal scientists.  Any member of Sentient, with an interest in Brumbies can get involved.  It would be great to attract scientists with expertise in Brumbies, wildlife management, welfare, reproductive control and any other areas relevant to managing Brumby populations with a focus on optimising welfare.  However, simply being a supporter and helping to contribute to a voice of the veterinary profession and wider scientific community in promoting their welfare would be greatly welcomed.    Any other interested parties that are not eligible to join Sentient can still support the Brumbies by supporting organisations such as Save the Brumbies Inc 

How can people get involved?
Any veterinarians, animal scientists, students, professionals and non-professionals that are interested in becoming involved with the Brumby Working Group, please contact Andrea by email at: andreaharvey.cat@gmail.com and visit www.sentient.org.au to join Sentient, The Veterinary Institute of Animal Ethics

Anyone else that would like to get involved in helping the Australian Brumby in other ways, please visitwww.savethebrumbies.org, or australianbrumbyalliance.org.au to find out about the various Brumby charities in different regions of Australia and how you can help.