MSU Hosts 8th Annual Animal Welfare Competition; MSU Undergraduate Student Wins Division

posted on December 12, 2008 6:03am


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EAST LANSING, Mich.—Aspiring animal welfare experts from universities and veterinary colleges across the Midwest and Canada converged on the campus of Michigan State University (MSU) Nov. 1-2 to compete in the eighth annual Intercollegiate Animal Welfare Judging and Assessment Contest.
  The competition is divided into three divisions: undergraduate, graduate and veterinary college. Students may participate in team and/or individual events,  as well as educational seminars and a poster session.
  Created as an educational exercise to enhance students’ understanding of the welfare issues affecting animals used for human purposes, including livestock production, research and companionship, the event promotes critical thinking,  teaches ethical reasoning skills, encourages objective assessments based on science, and improves persuasive public speaking and presentation skills.
  Contestants were challenged to assess the welfare of animals in comparative scenarios featuring Przewalski’s horses (Takhi), domestic cats and dairy cattle. The on-farm team assessment considered the welfare of layer chickens,  turkeys and Coturnix quail.
  Katelynn Lebbin, MSU animal science junior from Swartz Creek, won first place in the undergraduate division. Teammates Emelie Evenson, animal science senior from Okemos, placed third, and Matt Hasenjager, MSU zoology senior from East Lansing, placed fifth overall. Purdue teammates Laurie Onyskow and Ashley Kelly placed second and fourth, respectively.
  In the undergraduate team division, Purdue outscored the MSU team, which finished in second place. The University of Wisconsin-Madison placed third,  followed by two teams representing the University of Guelph (Ontario).
  The MSU undergraduate team consisted of Lebbins, Evenson and Hasenjager; Kevin Dacres, zoology senior; and Kate Mills, MSU animal science senior from Imlay City.
  Winners in both the individual and team categories of the graduate school division hailed from the University   of Guelph. Maggie Gooding placed first, followed in order by Stephanie Ellison, Marisa Erasmus and Kristi Bovey.
  Jennafer Glaesemann, Iowa State University, took first place honors in the veterinary college division. Kelly Pinner and Kasia Sulima, University of Guelph,  placed second and third, respectively; Rachel Cohen and Cia Johnson, University   of Missouri, finished fourth and fifth, respectively. Winning teams, in order, were: the University of Guelph, Iowa State University,  the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Missouri.
  The MSU veterinary college team was made up of Amy Crum, Liz Saletta and Chelsey Shivley.
  Traveling trophies were awarded to the highest placing team in each division.  The trophies featured original artwork of various animal species created by Lynne Millman, a fine artist from Nova   Scotia.
  Before the competitive portion of the contest began, experts presented talks on understanding the ethical issues affecting several industries. Katherine Houpt,  professor of animal behavior at Cornell University, spoke about the welfare implications for the competition horse outside the training arena; Courtney Lynd Daigle, animal science research technician, presented national survey results illustrating how husbandry practices relate to reproductive success in lions; Elizabeth Karcher, MSU academic specialist in animal science, shared typical pros and cons of pasture-based dairy cattle systems; and Ian Duncan, University of Guelph, talked about the importance of rest for poultry chicks.
  Contest judges were Houpt; Richard Reynnells, national program leader, Animal Production Systems Plant and Animal Systems with the USDA-CSREES; Gail Golab, director of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Animal Welfare Division; Terry Jobsis, research program manager in the Department of Animal Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; James Reynolds, service chief in dairy production medicine with the University of California-Davis Veterinary Medicine Teaching and Research Center; and Janice Swanson, MSU director of animal welfare.
  Camie Heleski, MSU animal science animal welfare instructor, team coach and competition organizer, said the opportunity to network with animal welfare experts continues to be one of the focal points of the competition for students.
  “The students really benefit from being able to interact one-on-one with the judges,” she said. “Having face time with these experts really offers students a unique perspective and a chance to learn about animal behavior, health,  physiology, welfare and ethics from the leading species authorities in North America.”
  This competition marked the second time that veterinary students were eligible to participate in the event, underscoring the expanding role that veterinarians play in ensuring the observance of humane animal welfare standards. The veterinary division of the contest was sponsored by the AVMA.
  Golab praised the contest for helping students recognize and develop the analytical skills and understanding of ethics necessary for success in the field of animal welfare.
  “Making good animal welfare decisions is challenging because many factors—both animal and human—come into play,” Golab explains.  “To be successful in the competition,  veterinary students must familiarize themselves with various physiological and behavioral indicators of animal welfare and critically evaluate how well a given situation suits the animal. They have to look holistically at facilities,  care practices and management, and also consider the role that social ethics plays in determining what is good and poor welfare. The scenarios presented during the contest are realistic and help prepare veterinary students for the challenges they will face when they are asked to provide similar recommendations after graduation.”
  The MSU Animal Behavior and Welfare Group(ABWG) studies animal well-being issues using non-invasive practices. Its mission is to develop practical solutions for improving the general well-being and long-term welfare of animals based on sound science, in addition to providing the necessary training to implement these solutions.
  To learn more about the ABWG and the annual judging competition, visit


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