A talk with…Jim Clapp

Dr. Jim Clapp is a veterinary surgeon, currently employed as a research associate at Newcastle University School of Agriculture, in the UK.

Where did you grow up?

A small village in north Lancashire. My parents kept some goats, a few sheep and even a sow at one time. I recall the local trauma, when the dairy farm next to us, was slaughtered out during the Foot and Mouth outbreak of 1967; the same farm where each summer we had the village sports day. Sadly the same fate befell the farm in 2001, confirming the futility and short-sightedness of such a policy. I was so lucky to see practice with Geoff, a local vet. To this day his wisdom, compassion and general humanity remain the map and compass for my life. 

What motivates you in your re¬search on animal well-being? 

As a practising veterinary surgeon, animal well-being is my first and most important priority. Consequently, motivation is not an issue as I am always on the side of the animal in this respect and treat it as my duty.

What made you decide to work on animal well-being? 

It was serendipitous, that having decided to do a PhD at Newcastle University, I met and worked with two world leaders in animal behaviour and welfare, Professors Melissa Bateson and Sandra Edwards. In my eyes, all animal research involves animal well-being, not least because the ‘3Rs’ and ‘five freedoms’ are integral corner stones of such work. So there has not been any conscious decision on my part to select this field of work as it naturally stems from my work with animals generally.  

In your opinion, what is the single most important well-being issue in current animal production?

The term ‘animal production’ clearly smacks of factory farming, the root of the problems around animal well-being. We are breeding animals to endure poor welfare in terms of space and enrichment and eat to excess. The widespread practice of in-feed antibiotics allowed pigs to be fed on substandard rations. The ban on this practice, from fears of global antibiotic resistance, now makes ani¬mal feeds even more expensive and a greater drain on world resources, compromising food security. 
We waste vast quantities of food to feed animals that we then eat, with a 60% loss of efficiency. Yes, meat is lovely, but make it a luxury.

What is your favorite animal?

My answer is that no one strain, breed, species, genus, family or superorder is my favorite, because animals, like humans, among who we have our favorite(s), are fundamentally individuals. All living creatures are amazing so putting one group above others is silly. 


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