The numbers alone speak for themselves:
- 173 million feline and canine fur babies share their homes with 81 million households in the U.S., which account for ⅔ of the U.S. population;
- 5.4 million cats and dogs entered U.S. shelters in 2019, but only 79% of them were saved, while 625,000 were killed;
- More than 50% of all cats and dogs killed in the U.S. can be found in California, Texas, North Carolina, Florida, and Louisiana;
- Only 2,126—or 44%—of shelters meet the benchmark for the no-kill philosophy; and
- Euthanasia, housing concerns, financial problems, and the health or death of a caretaker and/or a family member are the reasons most frequently cited for surrendering a pet.
Evidently, there’s still plenty to be said when it comes to ensuring the welfare of animals in households and animal welfare organizations.
Fortunately, professionals like Andrew Knight are lending a hand towards this noble cause.
A vet professor of animal welfare, Andrew leads the Centre for Animal Welfare at the University of Winchester, a long-established and well-established public research university headquartered in the city of Winchester, Hampshire, England. The Centre for Animal Welfare is an interdisciplinary center that undertakes research, teaching, and public engagement in the field of animal welfare.
Clearly taking pride in what the Centre has achieved so far, Andrew stated,
“We have a distance-learning Masters’ program in animal welfare, science, ethics, and law, which is kind of like a small factory for highly skilled and qualified animal advocates. We churn out about 30 graduates out of that program each year, most of who want to go on and have professional careers in animal advocacy themselves.”
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Andrew himself does a lot of his own sort of advocacy, doing research and publications on animal welfare issues on a regular basis.
“Just recently, as of last week, we published some really exciting articles about educational animal use and humane alternatives to harming animals and things like vet surgery training, working on vegan and alternate pet foods for cats and dogs, and looking at the health outcomes of cats and dogs on these vegan diets and the environmental benefits of those diets and happiness and the behavior of the animals as well. So, we’re looking at a range of aspects there and other subjects.”
As a professional with a doctorate in animal welfare, Andrew works with various animal advocacy groups to bring the pressing problem to the attention of more and more people worldwide. In a bid to address these issues, their activities usually entail Andrew and other like-minded individuals and professionals actively sending letters to the government about the steps that need to be taken against terrible acts of cruelty inflicted against animals, among other things, and publishing reports on a range of different relevant issues.
“I’m from Perth, Western Australia, which was the world capital of the live sheep export trade. And we would ship about 5 million sheep to mostly Middle Eastern countries, where they would be slaughtered, and about 150,000 would die at sea each year because of the poor conditions on the ships. So, this was almost the longest sea voyage in the world and the largest numbers of animals and huge animal welfare problem. And I became involved in helping to launch the Australian campaign against the live sheep trade back at that time. And I thought this is amazing. It feels like, instead of my life not having any significance, suddenly it does have significance. I’m making a difference to millions of sentient animals, which is great.”
As fate would have it, Andrew’s humble beginnings can be traced back to being a pizza delivery driver whose involvement in the Australian campaign against the live sheep trade in the mid-1990s secured him various invitations to interviews on the radio. Despite the great set of facts and figures he would present to their audiences, however, people only took his words with a grain of salt as soon as they learned that he was only earning his daily bread and butter through pizza delivery.
This led him to consider becoming a veterinary, which would eventually change his life.
“I got rapidly drawn sideways into a huge fight to learn veterinary medicine and surgery without killing animals in the process, which was rife throughout the curriculum as it has been at many veterinary schools around the world, and ended up having to fight another massive campaign, which ended up being ultimately successful. And we got rid of harmful animal usage and replaced it with human alternatives, and it spread to other veterinary schools,”
After graduation, Andrew ended up working in a small animal practice as a local vet. Over the years, this gave him the time to keep doing research and publishing, and he eventually worked with organizations looking at animal research. He later on discovered that the activities he’d been engaged in can actually get one a Ph.D. if they only kept doing enough research and publications in an area and end up providing plenty of research outputs.
The rest was, as they say, history.
“I suddenly had a goal… I just kept on working in animal advocacy, producing more and more research and publications and presentations on various topics. And I ended up becoming a professor of animal welfare and ethics and asked to set up a Centre for Animal Welfare at the University of Winchester.”
The appointment initially presented a lot of challenges. Unlike other universities, Andrew and his small team of two had no animals they can call their own at the university. Apart from that, no one knew who they were, they hardly had enough staff, and they basically selected to try a new virtual learning platform that was yet unheard of at the time.
Today, however, all these issues have become a thing of the past. The graduate program in Animal Welfare, Science, Ethics, and Law that Andrew has helped set up and cultivate, has rapidly grown to become one of the biggest programs being offered at the University.
“It’s entirely distance-learning, so people can do that from anywhere in the world. We have students in the US, Australia, all across Europe, everywhere in the world, actually doing this program. And now, I think, considered one of the top programs in the world in its area. So, that was another kind of a lucky outcome.”
According to Andrew, their studentry is composed of an interesting bunch of individuals that are not just keen on helping animals in their only ways but also want to make the world a better place.
To supplement the already-interesting backgrounds of their population, the Centre for Animal Welfare implements a wide range of activities for its students in the Master’s program. This way, Andrew and his team see to it that their graduates develop the qualifications they need to advance their careers.
“We think it’s not enough for them to be able to become experts on animal welfare issues and to be able to write good academic essays. We know that the employing animal welfare organizations…value people being able to communicate well in an engaging way to the general public and to different stakeholder groups, whether they be scientific audiences, legislators, companies, or others for their assignments… So, it’s exciting that this is happening as a side effect of the Master’s program, the Internet’s being propagated with this wonderful set of in warfare resources every year as well.”
Interested to learn more about animal welfare?
Check out Andrew Knight’s website at https://www.andrewknight.info/.
Explore animal welfare courses at https://www.winchester.ac.uk/research/our-impactful-research/research-and-knowledge-exchange-in-health-and-wellbeing-/research-centres/caw/.
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