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Animal Welfare Foundation Discussion Forum 2014

It was the week before my first year exams began and as usual I had delayed the onset of my revision until last minute convincing myself that two weeks of mad lambing in my Easter holidays was a valid excuse to postpone any kind of revision. In the same mind-set I had thought that I could also afford an adventure to the capital for a few days to include a day at the AWFs annual discussion forum. This included an evening drinking at the expense of the House of Commons where I spent the majority of the night being told off by various guards! Anyway, to draw myself back from my tangent, I don't know what kind of masochistic avoidance tactics I employ around exam time but this was one of the best opportunities I have seized since coming to vet school and would jump at the chance again!

The AWF hold this forum to address a number of topics the audience from the year before have raised an interest to discuss. This year subjects such as what is considered 'fit for transport to slaughter', the psychology of animal hoarding, issues around the equine industry and the often lack of traceability and with great relevance to myself - vet students and their EMS placements! It proved a really interesting day and much unlike how I had expected it to be! I must say it wasn't at all fluffy bunnies and unicorns! It was fantastically down-to-earth and pragmatic whilst maintaining the all important focus on animal welfare.

During the course of the day I plucked up the courage to do a bit of mingling and met some fascinating people all of which understood my passion for welfare without fearing that I am some irrational animal activist! It may strike you as strange but as soon as a conversation begins along the line of welfare many people begin to back away.. either that or begin a huge debate (I love that kind!) None of the people I spoke to had a dislike of farmers, of animal testing or of human's ancient exploitation of any animal product - including companionship! It's something I think needs to be reiterated as during my lifetime so far I have already clocked up many hours in vets practices and farms (this of which will only continue) and it has been very rarely that I have felt the welfare of farmed animals has been less than that of pets. (Ahem, obesity?) Animal cruelty parades all over the park. We humans can ultimately decide what we chose to consume and I have quite the sweet tooth and yes, I know it bad for me but after all - it is my decision. Mr. Fluffy has no blooming idea whats good for him, only that his tummy is rumbling and he has trifle in his food bowl! So then Mr. Fluffy become more like Mr. Blobby and gets a variety of illnesses (you can chose) and feels rubbish and goes the vets all the time, which he hates and the poor animal lives a life of stress and illness. When a farm animal becomes ill it is either treated until it is cured or it is dispatched and no longer suffers; its life expectancy isn't continually expanded to please its owner. *Rant over*

Progressing into the evening after a pint in the pub in Westminster (extortion I tell you!) we were searched upon entry into the House of Commons! When were allowed entry to the riverside decking for canapes and wine I soon cottoned on to the fact that after every sip of wine a waiter immediately topped it up! As a student - this is not a service to which I am accustomed and needless to say I made good use of it! On most nights out I usually manage to keep a tally of what I have consumed however I never finished the glass and really its a miracle I navigated the tube to my cousins house alone!

A little bit more dutch courage provided additional confidence to chat to all the big wigs and when feeling particularly brave - get a sneaky picture! The first unlucky lady to be chatted away to was Emma Milne. Being the little vet student nerd I am and having watched every Vet related TV programs ever in existence and read pretty much all similarly themed books - I couldn't resist having a chat and she kindly humored me to which I am very grateful - so, thanks!!

A shameful little recommendation - read her books! For light bedtime reading she has a greatly amusing autobiog and if you're more interested in the ethical dilemmas faced in the profession read 'The Truth about Cats and Dogs'. It's factual, amusing and very thought provoking. *NB Vet school applicants --> it's interview material!!!

After a few lords, MPs and important chair people that I managed to annoy (note, magically refilling wine glass) we were all chivied out of the HoC, en route I met a guide dog and as a good citizen double checked with its owner if I could stroke it (can't help it - I'm a vet student!)..and I must admit it took me an embarrassingly long time to identify the owner as David Blunkett.. it took me until I had nearly left the building! (It was the wine, honestly...)

To summarise it was a bloody good day and my final comment will be to please support and find out about the work of AWF!


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