Sean became interested in animal welfare science as an undergraduate veterinary student, when he was awarded a Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW) Vacation Scholarship to investigate the welfare of caged zebra finches housed under typical pet shop conditions.
Six years later, having been instrumental in developing BVA policy in supporting a ban on the importation of wild-caught birds into the European Union to be kept as pets, Sean represented the position in Brussels and an EU-wide ban was introduced in 2007.
As BVA President in 2015/16, Sean initiated and led the production of BVA’s Animal welfare strategy. Developed through consultation with representatives from across the profession and other sector stakeholders, 'Vets speaking up for animal welfare' lays out a number of strategic actions based on the veterinary profession’s unique opportunity and responsibility to advocate animals' best interests at individual, community and political levels.
The strategy aims to further expand BVA’s animal welfare advocacy; provide tools and support to BVA members in areas such as veterinary ethics; and foster collaboration with other animal welfare-focused partners such as the recently launched BVA/British Cattle Veterinary Association (BCVA) position paper promoting analgesic use alongside local anaesthesia for routine surgical procedures on calves. To help build BVA’s international animal welfare agenda, Sean has recently been appointed as a member of the FVE Animal Welfare Working Group.
Another important project during Sean’s BVA Presidency was the jointly led BVA/RCVS Vet Futures project. He assisted in developing the Vet Futures report, which identifies veterinary leadership in animal health and welfare as one of the six key ambitions in its 2030 vision for the veterinary profession. While President he also produced an online video with the international animal welfare organisation World Animal Protection on the importance and relevance of animal sentience to the veterinary profession.
British Veterinary Association President Gudrun Ravetz, said: "Improving animal welfare has always been the focus of Sean’s veterinary career, through veterinary practice and policy and developing the profession’s role in advancing animal welfare. Since his undergraduate research and subsequent postgraduate studies in animal welfare, he has undertaken a wide range of overseas volunteer projects and continues to champion and promote understanding of animal welfare at individual, community, national and international levels on a daily basis.
"Sean also led on BVA’s landmark Animal welfare strategy, championing the role of vets as advocates of animals’ best interests and sending a clear signal that the veterinary profession will be a considerable force for good, for animals and for an increasingly compassionate society in the years ahead.
"Sean has made a difference to the lives of many animals with his dedication to animal welfare. I am delighted that Sean is being recognised on an international stage for his fantastic work in the field of animal welfare with this important award."
On receiving his award, Sean said: "It is excellent that WVA has further underpinned its commitment to animal welfare, in line with global society’s expectation of our profession as animal welfare leaders, through the establishment of the Global Animal Welfare Awards. It’s a great honour to be a recipient, which is tribute to my driven and forward-looking colleagues at BVA and PDSA. I thank them, as well as the many other organisations, institutions and individuals who have given me invaluable opportunities and encouragement during my career to date."
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