2009 Animals and human health
Tuesday 24 February 2009
Optus Lecture Theatre, CSIRO Discovery Centre, Canberra
The RSPCA Australia Scientific Seminar 2009 examined the interaction between animals and human health from the perspectives of both human health impacts and animal welfare.
Animals impact on our health and wellbeing in many ways, some of which we are barely aware of. Pets, or companion animals, can play an important role in improving mental wellbeing through the companionship they provide. However, our close relationships with animals can also provide challenges for health, including the emotional distress faced by animal welfare workers, and the challenge of responding to outbreaks of disease that may spread from animals to humans.
Furthermore, our use of animals for the production of compounds used in human medicine, such as heart valves, hormones and antibodies, poses significant threats to animal welfare. Possible future therapies based on genetic engineering, such as xenotransplantation raise significant new challenges.
Session 1: The use of animals in medical therapy. The first session provided a historical perspective on the use of animals in medicine, and a discussion of ethics and welfare impacts of the use of animals for human health purposes, with a focus on emerging technologies including genetic manipulation.
Session 2: Companion animals and mental health. This session included a discussion of the role of animal companionship in mental wellbeing, the problem of animal hoarding, and methods for maintaining good mental health and happiness when working in the field of animal welfare.
Session 3: Public health and animal welfare. Presentations covered changing patterns of zoonotic disease and the challenge of balancing public health needs with animal welfare. The Australian pandemic influenza response plan was covered as a specific example. The impacts of intensification of farming on human health will also be discussed.
The speakers for this year's seminar came from a range of backgrounds including academic, medical, government, non-government organisations and industry. They brought a broad range of experience in caring for the health of individuals, studying the history of medicine, managing public health decisions, practically managing animal welfare issues, and making complex ethical assessments.
- Humans and animals: something of a therapeutic team
Dr David Hardman, Clinical Associate Professor, ANU Medical School
- Companion animals and mental health: The benefits of companion animals for human psychological wellbeing
Maggie O'Haire, Fulbright postgraduate scholar, University of Queensland
- Companion animals and human health: The view from four paws
Mia Cobb, Training Kennels & Vet Clinic Manager, Guide Dogs Victoria
- Animal hoarding: A multi-disciplinary approach
John Snyder, Vice President, Companion Animals, The Humane Society of the US
- Animal welfare considerations in response to an emergency animal disease
Richard Rubira, Principal Veterinary Officer, Office of the Chief Veterinary Officer, DAFF
- Intensive farming and human health
Dr Peter Collignon, Director, Microbiology, The Canberra Hospital
This project is supported by the Commonwealth Government through a grant-in-aid administered by the Department of Finance and Deregulation.