When Ed Pajor started studying biology—specifically animal behaviour—in the mid-1980s, no one was really talking much about animal welfare.
“Historically, veterinary medicine and animal sciences looks at whether animals are healthy, are they growing well and are they producing?” he says. “There was more of an emphasis on the functioning aspects of the animal rather than the more subjective approach: what the animals feel; do the animals suffer; are the animals allowed to perform natural behaviours?”
Looking back 25 years, “it’s like night and day,” Pajor says. The field of animal welfare has grown to include a number of disciplines such as genetics, physiology, psychology and philosophy.
Pajor has played a significant role in creating this change. The professor of animal welfare at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine is recognized around the world for his expertise in animal welfare standards and legislation as well as research into the behaviour and welfare of swine, dairy and poultry.
He’s watched as people have started to care more about the food they’re eating as well as the pets they’re keeping, and industry has followed with increased diligence. “In a lot of industries, the desire to understand animal welfare has really increased,” Pajor says. “They want to really understand it from a science perspective so that we can create policies that are science-informed.”
Pajor helps a wide variety of organizations—from the Calgary Stampede to the fast food giant McDonald’s—better understand and incorporate animal welfare into their operations. He is also lending his considerable expertise to the American Veterinary Medical Association as it develops curriculum around animal welfare, information veterinary students at the University of Calgary are already learning.
“One of the exciting things about the vet school here is that we offer more hours of training and instruction in animal welfare than any other vet school in the country and likely across North America,” Pajor says.