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Worldwide, non-human animals (animals) need all the help they can get in an increasingly human-dominated world. A newly edited volume titled the Routledge Animal Welfare Handbook edited by animal welfare experts Professors Andrew Knight, Clive Phillips and Paula Sparks provide a comprehensive overview of animal welfare in the wide range of environments in which they are used, including emerging issues such as the effects of intensive farming and wildlife trade on climate change , biodiversity loss and antimicrobial resistance and pandemics.1.2
Here’s what Andrew had to say about this most valuable and comprehensive source of current information, written for a global audience.
Marc Bekoff: Why did you decide to Routledge Animal Welfare Handbook?
AK: Informed by recent advances in animal behavior and the cognitive sciences, a new understanding of the remarkable abilities of a wide variety of animals has led to a fundamental rethinking of the ways we use and sometimes exploit other species. This has challenged accepted practices and brought into sharp focus the diverse interests of stakeholders such as industry, government, wider society and of course the animals themselves.
In such a socially controversial domain, solid evidence is important. This book examines the scientific underpinnings of the moral consideration of animals and of evolving conceptualizations of animal welfare that raise concerns about the welfare of animals used in a wide variety of environments.
Source: Rouledge, with permission.
MB: How does your book relate to your background and general areas of interest?
AK: I’m from Perth, Western Australia, the world capital of the live sheep trade. Ever since I helped launch the Australian campaign against live sheep exports in the early 1990s, I’ve tried to advocate for animals. For nearly a decade prior to 2012, I practiced veterinary medicine, mostly near London. In 2013, I was recruited into academia. I now run the very active Center for Animal Welfare at the University of Winchester in the UK where we offer a variety of distance learning and conventional animal welfare degrees.
In the decades that I have tried to advance the interests of animals, it has become clear to me that there is a strong need for a science-based textbook that provides a comprehensive overview of the full range of animal welfare issues, along with important related areas such as animal law, ethics and human behavior change – and beyond, that supports the really important call for change that is justified in many areas. This textbook was created to support these needs. I hope and expect that it will become an important resource for animal welfare advocates worldwide.
MB: Who is your intended audience?
AK: Our textbook will become an important resource for policy makers, researchers and other professionals working in the animal welfare sector, and for animal welfare students around the world.
MB: What are some of the topics you weave into your book and what are some of your key messages?
AK: Combining the expertise of 50 authors, many of whom are world leaders in their fields, the Routledge Animal Welfare Handbook comprehensively covers animal welfare issues related to terrestrial and fish farming, transportation, slaughter, use of animals in labs, zoos, entertainment environments, and as companions, working animals, and more. Virtually all contemporary animal welfare issues are covered extensively.
The inclusion of recent topics such as the effects of climate change on animal welfare and the links between animal exploitation, antimicrobial resistance and pandemics make this text one of the most current in its field. This textbook also covers animal ethics, animal law in key regions of the world, stakeholder perspectives, education, communication, and human behavior change.
MB: How does your book differ from others dealing with some of the same general topics?
AK: Numerous books on animal welfare have been published over the past 15 years, showing that there is a lot of interest in this area. Most, however, are either insufficiently based on scientific evidence, which affects their credibility, or else, usually those with a strong scientific basis, they fall short of seriously criticizing animal use practices. Calls for abolition or large-scale reform are usually lacking, even when well supported by the evidence. This text has the audacity to make such calls, and is set free by a very strong scientific basis, making the conclusions robust.
MB: Are you hopeful that if people learn more about the science of animal welfare, they will treat non-humans better?
AK: Let’s take a step back and put life into context. If you think about it, the universe is almost completely empty. It is unimaginably large and virtually silent. Very rarely is that emptiness broken by dust, stars or planets. Even rarer are planets that could support life, and as far as we know, the incredible complexity of living things exists only on our own planet.
This should fill us with a sense of wonder, deep appreciation and a desire to preserve our planetary life support systems and the incredible diversity of living things they support. Instead, we’ve created the sixth mass extinction event since the dawn of fossils, a short period of time when the majority of the world’s living things are wiped out.
By examining the remarkable characteristics of many animal species that provide a strong foundation for them to be given moral consideration, we hope that readers will come to value animals as highly as they deserve. And by taking a closer look at the many ways we humans exploit and harm those same animals, as well as the practical and policy reforms needed to address them, we hope readers understand the changes needed to world, will appreciate and support, while better protecting the interests of animals.