Dr Andrw Knight
Sentient Veterinary Member, A Truely Inspiring Man!
I grew up in Perth, Western Australia, which is the world capital of the live sheep export trade. Each year, around 5 million sheep boarded overcrowded sheep carriers on a 2.5 week voyage to middle eastern markets. Due to starvation and poor conditions, over 100,000 would die at sea, with around 150,000 dying in feedlots on arrival. The conditions these sheep have to endure, and the staggering mortality rates, are part of what turned me into an animal advocate.
In 1997 I entered Perth’s Murdoch University veterinary school, primarily to increase my ability to make a positive difference on issues such as this. Whilst a veterinary student from 1997 – 2001, I also ran a high-profile campaign for the introduction of humane alternatives to harmful animal use in education, using a combination of published educational studies and other evidence, and political pressure. As a result, in 1998 Murdoch became the first Australian university to formally allow conscientious objection by students to animal experimentation or other areas of their coursework. Several other universities within Australian and abroad have since followed suit.
I was also successful in stopping most of Murdoch's terminal physiology teaching laboratories, in which large numbers of sheep, toads and other animals were killed annually, and in 2000 a classmate and I pioneered Western Australia’s first alternative veterinary surgical program. Despite strong faculty opposition the program we created was highly successful. We gained around five times the surgical experience of our conventionally trained peers — who learned by killing pigs and sheep — and we jointly neutered 45 dogs and cats from animal shelters and private veterinary clinics. Our animal shelter neutering program proved so popular it was mainstreamed into the curriculum soon after.
My expansion into other fields of invasive animal use began in 2003 when I was commissioned by a US non-profit organisation to critically review the human toxicological utility of animal carcinogenicity tests. This resulted in four primary scientific publications and several secondary publications, including a debate published in BMJ USA. Over the coming decade I continued to publish a substantial series of related studies, which became a PhD critically scrutinising the human clinical, toxicological or educational utility of animal experimentation. My book ‘The Costs and Benefits of Animal Experiments’ followed in 2011. In a nutshell, this decade of work can be summarised as: claims about the utility of invasive animal research are often contrary to the best available scientific evidence on this issue, which indicates that the costs to the animals and to society incurred by this research normally far outweigh any benefits that may accrue.
From 2004 - 2012 I worked as a small animal veterinarian in the UK, mostly in London. From 2007 - 2012 I was a Spokesperson for Animals Count (soon to be the Animal Welfare Party), a UK political party for the animals. Based on a successful Dutch model, this party aims to raise the status of animal issues within UK politics and legislation.
In 2009 I became a Fellow of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, and in 2011 I became one of the new European specialists in Animal Welfare Science, Ethics and Law. The very recent creation of this specialty in both Europe and the US is an extremely exciting development within this field.
This year I took up a post as Associate Professor for Welfare and Ethics at Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine, in the Caribbean. We have one of the world’s largest veterinary schools, and I’m excited about encouraging large numbers of future veterinarians to become more aware of animal welfare and ethical issues, and to develop their associated critical reasoning skills. I’m also the Director of the Clinical Skills Laboratory, and am keen to assist with the development of new mannequins and simulators for teaching veterinary clinical skills.
Highlights so far have included regularly swimming with sea turtles in front of my bungalow, finding a crab in my living room (and another up a mountain), hiking into a volcano crater, and swimming 2.5 miles home from the neighbouring island. I’m also keenly interested in veterinary cryptozoology (the medicine and surgery of animals considered by mainstream biologists to be mythical or extinct), but unfortunately haven’t found any cryptids here yet. However, there are still many interesting and mysterious places to explore here… My ongoing adventures and links to the published stories can be found at www.AndrewsAdventures.info, and my book and publications are available via www.AndrewKnight.info.