Dr. Ian Duncan
Professor of Ethology & University Chair in Animal Welfare, University of Guelph, Ontario
Dr. Ian Duncan was born and educated in Edinburgh, Scotland. He took his B. Sc. in Agriculture from Edinburgh University and studied for his Ph.D. at the Poultry Research Centre in Edinburgh (now known as the Roslin Institute that produced “Dolly”) with a research topic of frustration in the domestic fowl. He continued to work at the Poultry Research Centre for over 20 years on topics related to behavior and welfare. For 10 years he advised the Commission of the European Communities on farm animal welfare matters.
In 1989, Dr. Duncan joined the Department of Animal and Poultry Science at the University of Guelph and is Professor of Ethology (Animal Behavior) in that Department He also holds the Chair in Animal Welfare at the University of Guelph.
Dr. Duncan travels all over the world giving talks on behavior and welfare, He has published over 150 scientific papers most of which are connected to animal welfare. His current research interests include developing methods of asking animals what they feel about the conditions under which they are kept and the procedures to which they are subjected.
Since the mid- 1960s, there has been increasing public concern over the welfare of agricultural animals, particularly those kept intensively in very artificial environments. This concern has been followed by attempts to study and conceptualize animal welfare in more scientific ways.
Two broad approaches have emerged (together with several minor ones). (i) Animal welfare is defined in terms of normal biological functioning and lack of stress, (ii) Animal welfare is defined in terms of the subjective feelings of animals.
Various examples are given of states of suffering that occur in modem animal agriculture including states of pain, fear and frustration. Methods of identifying these states are discussed; sometimes these states are obvious and predictable, while on other occasions they are subtle and surprising. The state of boredom, which intuitively one might assume to be common in farm animals housed in barren environments, is difficult to investigate scientifically, but may, in fact, be rather rare.
In answer to the first question posed in the title, poor welfare, is, unfortunately, all too common a fact in current agricultural practice. In answer to the second question, there is increasing acceptance that welfare is all to do with what animals experience subjectively. However, this can be, and is being, explored scientifically and there is a steadily increasing body of knowledge available. It is my hope that the animal agriculture industry will show itself to be responsible by (a) accepting the evidence that farm animal welfare is far from ideal, and (b) using the available knowledge to give farm animals a better quality of life.
In an effort to provide wide-ranging views and perspectives regarding the practice of and issues surrounding agriculture, the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture (PSPA) seeks speakers representing a variety of perspectives. The statements and opinions they present are strictly their own and do not necessarily represent the views of PSPA.