Scientific Seminar

2009 Animals and human health

Tuesday 24 February 2009, CSIRO Discovery Centre, Canberra 

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 the 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.



Previous Scientific Seminars

2008 Animals in transit: The journey ahead.

2007 How much space does an elephant need? The impact of confinement on animal welfare.

2006 The Five Freedoms and beyond: improving welfare of production animals.

2005 Cruelty to animals: a human problem.

2004 Welfare underwater - issues with aquatic animals.

2003 Solutions for achieving humane vertebrate pest control.

2002 Equine welfare: balancing tradition and science.

2001 Pets or pests? The future of companion animal ownership.

2000 Animal welfare in the new millennium: towards a national approach.

1999 Scientific evidence and improvements in animal welfare: are we ignoring the obvious?