1952 - 2016
It is with regret that we announce the sad death of Christopher Wathes, OBE on 6th May 2016, a long term member of WPSA UK.
Christopher was emeritus professor of the Royal Veterinary College, London, former Chairman of the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) and a friend and colleague of many working in the field of animal welfare both in UK and globally.
Throughout his career, Christopher was an advocate for pragmatism in the approach to understanding and improving animal welfare. Christopher was a believer in evidence based decisions as well as plain common sense. I was privileged to work under Christopher’s Chairmanship of FAWC and during that time he oversaw its revised strategy at a time of economic constraints, always resisting attempts to compromise or diminish the independence and influence of FAWC. His development of the concept of a “good life” and a ‘life worth living” for all farmed animals kept for food production gave all involved a template on which to assess provisions and requirements for assessing welfare, and more importantly improving standards. Christopher was justifiably proud of any measures that could enable animal keepers and legislators to monitor and improve welfare. The concept of a “life worth living” is a fitting and lasting legacy for his hard work and dedication.
During his earlier career he headed up the bioengineering division of the Silsoe Research Institute in the 1990s where he undertook work concentrating on animals preferences in their environment and its importance in achieving the best facilities to keep livestock. His move to the Royal Veterinary College in 2005 allowed further development of his interests in animal welfare and ethics from the animals perspective, which was the bedrock of his time chairing FAWC. At all times during his career Christopher showed a passion for good animal welfare but also cared a lot about people. He encouraged good thinking and wanted those around him, students, peers and friends to grow and succeed.
He faced his latter health issues with stoicism and courage, but was clearly frustrated that it impacted on his lifelong skills of communication.
He was proud and deserving of the prestigious award this year from the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW) with their Medal for Outstanding Achievements in Animal Welfare Science, presented posthumously, to his wife Claire, recently.
Christopher will be sadly missed by all who knew him and worked with him. He certainly demonstrated how to have a “life worth living” and his legacy is that animal welfare has benefited from his considerable efforts and that he enriched the lives of people who knew him.
Stephen Lister, WPSA UK