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UVMB opens Center for Animal Welfare

Animal welfare research and education has reached another major milestone at the University of Veterinary Medicine Budapest. The newly-established Legal, Analytical and Methodological Center for Animal Welfare at the University of Veterinary Medicine Budapest (in short, UVMB Center for Animal Welfare) aims to provide the scientific background for the theory and practice of animal welfare, thus supporting state decision-making processes related to animal welfare as well as helping vets and animal welfare activists working in the field. The Center offers a long-awaited knowledge base which provides modern methods for teaching animal welfare in veterinary training programmes and organizes courses and seminars for non-veterinary professionals and NGOs. In addition, the Center aims to efficiently communicate the latest animal welfare research findings to the general public as well. As a new organizational unit of the University of Veterinary Medicine Budapest, the UVMB Center for Animal Welfare began its operation as of 1 January, 2021.

The University of Veterinary Medicine Budapest established the Center for Animal Welfare to address the growing significance of animal welfare issues. Environment protection and nature conservation are the key challenges of our era, and the preservation of animal species is impossible without the protection of individual specimens. The facts that the issue is closely linked to environment protection and that our society increasingly considers animals as living creatures capable of feeling joy and suffering will likely boost the importance of animal welfare measures in the future. It is our common interest to live in an ethical society where we minimize the suffering and cruelty in terms of humans and animals alike.

In the press conference announcing the establishment of the Center, UVMB’s Rector Péter Sótonyi emphasized that veterinarians must act as animal welfare ambassadors and have the deepest possible and internationally competitive knowledge about animal welfare issues. The University of Veterinary Medicine Budapest is the most important institution for animal welfare research and professional education in Hungary. Animal Protection has been a required subject for first-year students enrolled in the Hungarian, English and German language programme since 2017, and the year 2021 marks yet another milestone in the research and education of animal welfare. UVMB’s newly-established Center for Animal Welfare aims to provide scientific support for the development of Hungarian animal protection efforts and to contribute to a positive paradigm shift in animal welfare. Similarly to UVMB, universities operate animal protection knowledge bases in many countries all over the world, but the Center for Animal Welfare is the first in our region. The Rector emphasized that animal protection was a complex inter-disciplinary activity, so the new Center conducts a multi-disciplinary research and education of animal welfare, based on the cooperation of veterinarians, legal experts and representatives of other areas. Péter Sótonyi also noted that, as of 2021, fourth-year veterinary students got a new required subject called Comparative Animal Protection at the Center for Animal Welfare, with Hungarian and English language courses. The purpose of the subject is to deepen the animal protection knowledge they acquired in their first year, and raise it to an internationally competitive level. As far as graduate vets are concerned, the University will soon provide the conditions for an animal welfare specialist training programme. In cooperation with key animal protection players, the Center will compile a declaration of ethical norms for animal protection, i.e., a Code of Animal Welfare, which any organization can adopt as long as they commit to complying with the identified basic principles in terms of their treatment of animals. The creators of the Code are scheduled to sign the document in the summer of 2021, but other organizations may join the group later on.

In his speech, Péter Ovádi, Ministerial Commissioner in charge of the renewal and implementation of the National Animal Welfare Programme talked about the great opportunity lying in the cooperation of the professional organizations and NGOs actively involved in animal protection efforts. He added that Covid-19 had posed unprecedented challenges to communities and individuals, so it was a great pleasure to see that animal welfare efforts were reinforced by the establishment of such an important professional base. Talking about the goals, the commissioner explained that the National Animal Welfare Programme was going to lay great emphasis on educating the public in terms of responsible animal ownership, relying heavily on the Center for Animal Welfare.

The head of the Center for Animal Welfare, Szilvia Vetter said the institution represented a new colour in the Hungarian animal protection spectrum. The Center focuses on identifying controversial animal protection issues or conflicting interests, and then studying, researching and teaching them. Such issues include, for example, the regulatory and institutional compliance and efficiency of animal protection, disputes related to implementation, the well-being of food animals as well as the questions related to shelters, stray animals, spaying and neutering, breeding sites, the legal, psychological and criminological aspects of animal abuse, the connection points between nature preservation and animal protection, the correlations of animal and human abuse, circus animals, and the animal protection aspects of hunting (e.g.: poaching). The Center is planning training courses with multiple sessions for official veterinarians and NGOs, for example, as well as one-time seminars and conferences. Participants are welcome to the Center’s online one-day professional training course to be held on 26 February under the title: “Who becomes an animal torturer? Profiling animal abusers” The UVMB Center for Animal Welfare strives for long-term partnership with all animal welfare stakeholders, including all organizations and individuals involved in the professional, state or civil sector, whose daily work is focused on animals and are eager to consider the animal welfare aspects in their activities. The Center’s working languages are Hungarian, English and German.