What We Do
"Welfare has become established as one of various criteria used to decide on whether a system is sustainable because members of the public will not accept systems that cause poor welfare".
— Professor D. Broom, Acta Ethologica 2011
To provide objective welfare evaluations for animals in captivity and in the wild.
Despite an increased public concern for animal welfare, human activity is impacting both captive and wild animals now more than ever. Intensive farming, climate change, pollution and habitat degradation are just some of the anthropogenic factors that seriously decrease animals' quality of life. Scientists consider 'welfare' the balance of positive and negative affective (emotional) states, and have developed methods to assess this objectively. However, as yet there is little practical application of such measures in animal management contexts.
Animal Welfare Expertise, or AWE, provides exclusive insight and understanding into animal welfare issues. The organisation was founded by Dr Isabella Clegg who discovered that while welfare science continued to progress, the transfer of knowledge into the various animal industries was lagging behind. This highlighted the unexplored and unique advantages that measuring welfare could provide for the management of wild and captive animals. AWE fills this gap by using innovative, easy-to-understand tools to evaluate the welfare of an animal population, group, or individual, while also developing management programs to assure optimal quality of life in the future.
Our objective is to provide a detailed understanding regarding the welfare of animals in our clients' direct or indirect care, and to achieve this our approach has 3 main facets:
Animal-based measures. Our evaluations of welfare concern the animal's responses to the environment (outputs), as opposed to the resources we provide them with (inputs). Animal-based measures are the most accurate and precise way to measure welfare.
Evidence-based practice. Our recommendations always follow the 3 principles of evidence-based practice, using: the latest scientific advances; our expert judgement to take into account the unique characteristics of the context; and considering the client's preferences and values.
Collective responsibility. Our expertise on the welfare state of animals is neither punitive nor judgemental. The emphasis is firmly placed on moving forward to increase welfare if need be, and to develop sustainable management programs and capacity-building exercises to allow continued monitoring and improvement.
Dr Isabella Clegg founded Animal Welfare Expertise with the overall goal of using science to improve animal welfare. She felt the key was to increase the flow of information from the scientific domain towards those responsible for wild and captive animals. Isabella has been passionate about animal welfare from a young age, but like many did not know that such principles could be the foundation of an academic career. She studied Animal Behaviour & Welfare at the University of Bristol, before completing a Masters in Marine Biology (focus on Marine Mammal Science) at the University of Miami. Here, she teamed her knowledge of welfare science with captive dolphin management to develop the first welfare assessment in this setting, the C-Well© Assessment (further details).
This experience led Isabella to propose a project and win funding from the French government (ANRT), and the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare, to conduct a PhD at the Université Paris 13, Sorbonne Paris Cité, in developing welfare parameters for captive dolphins. The work went deeper into measuring animal emotions and was completed in 2017, leading to a number of high-profile publications and media recognition.
Now, Isabella is focussing on furthering awareness of behaviour and welfare issues among those working with animals, through the organisation AWE. Her main speciality lies in marine mammals and zoo animal welfare assessment, but she has theoretical and practical experience in many other areas. She also consults on wildlife campaigns for NGOs (e.g. WAP's Marine Debris campaign), government deliberations over captive animals (Barcelona Zoo, Spain; NSW enquiry, Australia), and has been on the ground taking data for conservation projects (ABYSS, La Réunion; Patagonia Projects, Chile).
Due to the inherent subjectivity present in welfare evaluations and advice, Isabella has engaged a team of welfare experts- world-leaders in their fields- to share their experience and advice on AWE's projects. Meet AWE's Team of Advisors here.