An Interview with Professor DONALD BROOM

An Interview with Professor DONALD BROOM


  1. Was their a pivotal moment where you first realised you were concerned with animal welfare? If so, please elaborate.


I was interested in all animals and concerned about their welfare from an early age. However, the point at which I decided that I should do something about it, and carry out research with the aim of improving welfare, was when I first saw calves in crates. I had been studying the social behaviour of calves and realised that an isolated calf, kept to produce veal or to go into a dairy herd, was seriously deprived. At that time, in the early 1970s, it was not possible to get funds to do animal welfare research but it was possible to describe the problems of individually housed, as compared with group-reared calves so that was my first scientific publication on animal welfare. Twenty five years later this and other evidence was used when the E.U. banned the keeping of calves in small crates or with an inadequate diet.


  1. Do you think that there is enough animal welfare concern at Cambridge? Is there an active student body devoted to animal welfare?


There have been big changes towards good welfare systems in the sourcing of food within the University, as there have in supermarkets. Researchers are also more aware of animal welfare issues but there should be more concern. Student pressure has been a significant factor in promoting improvements in animal welfare. More can be done!


  1. You have received numerous awards and honorary degrees; does one in particular hold any special meaning to you?


It was a special occasion when I received an honorary doctorate from the Norwegian University of Life Sciences. It was presented by the Crown Prince of Norway and a there was a speech by the Brazilian Ambassador about my contributions to teaching and research on animal welfare in Brazil.


  1. Our 4 key aims as a group are to see mandatory stunning and CCTV in slaughterhouses, improvement of transport conditions and labelling. Do you support these aims?


Yes, I think that all animals should be stunned and that stunning within five seconds of killing, as practised for the majority of animals killed by Halal slaughter in the U.K., should be mandatory for all Jewish and Muslim slaughter. Most in the meat industry already see the advantage of CCTV in slaughterhouses and improved welfare during transport. Traceability is already quite good in the UK but modern methodology makes it easier and cheaper.

  1. What is the likelihood of these 4 aims receiving legislative backing?


All are likely to be the subject of new laws but I do not know when.


  1. What do you have to say to people who question the science of stunning? Are there any scientific or peer-reviewed sources that support Shechita and other methods of religious non-stun slaughter?


There is now clear scientific evidence that welfare is very poor for 20 to 120 seconds when animals are killed without stunning by Shechita or Halal. In the U.K. stunning is effective in the vast majority of animals and repeat stuns can be carried out very quickly if stunning is not effective. There are no animal welfare scientists who argue that cutting the throat without stunning is ever humane. The evidence is summarised in chapter 22 of Broom, D.M. and Fraser, A.F. 2015. Domestic Animal Behaviour and Welfare, 5th edn. (pp. 472) Wallingford: CABI.


  1. What in your mind is the biggest factor holding animal welfare back? Religion, Capitalism, factory farming etc   conflicting demands of public,


It is still a problem that there people who do not view farm animals as sentient. I have tried to explain sentience and how it can be used in: Broom, D.M. 2014. Sentience and Animal Welfare (pp. 200). Wallingford: CABI. All major religions have statements in their holy books saying that we should treat animals well but tribal customs sometimes conflict with these. Short-term commercial pressures often lead to cost-cutting practices that are associated with poor welfare.


  1. Do you eat meat? If so what is the lowest standard of welfare you would accept on your weekly shop? i.e. Red tractor, RSPCA Freedom food, organic etc.


Yes I eat meat and, whilst I respect those who do not, the fact that very large numbers of animals are killed in order to produce plant food for humans has led me to decide that vegetarianism is not logical. There are some animal foods that I do not eat because of poor welfare and I look for standards like those of Freedom Food.


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