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Animal suffering and expert evidence
  1. David B. Morton, CBE, BVSc, PhD, FSB, DipECLAM, DipECAWBM, MRCVS
  1. School of Biosciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK. e-mail:

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IN a paper summarised on p 307 of this issue of Veterinary Record, Baumgaertner and others (2016) investigate the differences between veterinarians providing expert evidence on animal welfare when helping courts establish whether there has been an infringement of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) 2006, or for older cases under the earlier legislation of the Protection of Animals Act 1911. The approaches taken by different veterinary surgeons acting as expert advisers to the Court has seemingly led to inconsistencies and conflicting opinions, even when judging similar cases. The authors analysed 42 reports (36 different cases) and showed that variations were often based on differences in welfare assessment and interpreting the actions of the owners, and in the use of the literature. It is of concern that Wooler (2014) commented that there was ‘no commonality to the approach nor apparently a commonly recognised professional standard’ among expert witnesses, which was likely to be ‘a source of on-going contention and mutual criticisms’. So much so, that ‘courts may come to different conclusions upon similar facts’ (Radford 2001). These discrepancies are obviously important for ensuring justice for both the people and the animals involved. All cases pivot on …

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