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Welfare Specialist Professor Barnett Has Died

by 5m Editor
26 February 2009, at 9:44am

AUSTRALIA - Associate Professor John Barnett of the University of Melbourne and his wife were among the victims of the recent wild fires in the state of Victoria. Dr Barnett dedicated his life to animal welfare and from this and other tributes, it is clear the warmth and respect with which he was regarded.

Dr Mingan Choct, CEO of Poultry CRC wrote the following tribute to John Barnett:

Many of you directly involved with the CRC may have heard by now that Associate Professor John Barnett and his wife Jenny died in the Victorian bush fires earlier this month.


Associate Professor John Barnett

John Barnett dedicated his life to animal welfare research, including leading the Poultry CRC's Welfare Program from its inception nearly six years ago. John also worked tirelessly to put together the welfare component of the Poultry CRC's re-bid application. I spoke with John in the week before he died about the work we were doing on this re-bid and it was clear how focussed and determined he was to do what he could to help our organisation, and all the people it represents, achieve this goal.

Aside from acting as a Program Manager with the current CRC and driving the development of our future welfare programmes, John also played important roles in individual CRC projects aimed at improving the welfare of poultry.

John and his team of researchers have helped the Australian poultry industries take a number of proactive steps to improve bird welfare. In 2004, John's team completed a CRC project that substantially improved the uptake by chicken meat companies of welfare standards into their everyday production processes. John was involved in the original RIRDC funded broiler welfare audit which identified the welfare issues and drove this initiative through to where we are now, with implementation up from around 50 per cent at the start of the CRC to over 80% today, which is a testimony to John's dedication and his ability to work with the people around him.

Another avenue of the CRC's welfare research in which John was instrumental has focussed on establishing a scientific method of assessing bird welfare. John's expertise in this area has been fundamental to rational progress in the welfare debate. His understanding of animal welfare, gained from 35 years in both wildlife and domestic animal research, injected a much needed, credible voice to what is often an emotionally charged subject. John also mentored some exceptionally talented young scientists, ensuring that his legacy will be carried well into the future by people who share his passion for science and animals.

Not surprisingly, John attracted recognition for his work from both within our shores and around the world. He received numerous accolades from the global scientific community and from the livestock industries that benefited from his work. Animal welfare science will feel keenly his absence. We can, however, take solace from the knowledge that the people he worked with, whatever their role in the scientific community or livestock industries, will find the path before them that much clearer for John's work.

As a scientist, John was a fine example for others to follow. He was a prolific and valuable contributor to the scientific body of knowledge through both publications and presentations. His astute grasp of the various methodologies used to assess and measure animal welfare made him a highly sought-after speaker at conferences around the world. Many of our emerging scientists owe John a tremendous debt for the years he spent teaching undergraduate and postgraduate students at The University of Melbourne.

John felt that his greatest success was his contribution to animal welfare science and the animal welfare debate over the last 25 years. He cited 'persistence' as a key attribute that he developed along the way. When confronted with setbacks, such as an experiment not going to schedule, he kept his head down and repeated them until they were finished. John had an innate understanding of the need to remain flexible when conducting research and the importance of communicating regularly with those involved, whether they were fellow researchers or industry stakeholders, and it was this ability to see the bigger picture that will be so sorely missed by all of us who had the good fortune to have worked with John during his career.

This is a terribly sad loss to us all and our heartfelt condolences are extended to John and Jenny's families and friends.

You can read dedications to John from those that knew him in a dedicated section of The University of Melbourne web site.