Dr Manuel Berdoy
Dr Manuel Berdoy (left) receives his award from RSPCA Chief Executive Jeremy Cooper.

Image credit: RSPCA

Oxford zoologist awarded RSPCA animal welfare honour

An Oxford University zoologist has been awarded an RSPCA honour for his groundbreaking work improving welfare for laboratory rodents.

Dr Manuel Berdoy has won the Sir Patrick Moore Award for outstanding contributions to the understanding of laboratory rodent behaviour and reducing the numbers of animals used in experiments through better design and statistical analysis.

The RSPCA awards have, for more than 100 years, recognised people and organisations that have helped the RSPCA towards its goals of ending cruelty, protecting animals from abuse, and furthering knowledge of animal welfare.

RSPCA Chief Executive Jeremy Cooper said: 'Dr Berdoy has worked closely with the RSPCA Research Animals Department for two decades, speaking at national and international meetings and forums, sitting on working groups, and sharing our aims to promote the importance of the lives and welfare of laboratory animals.'

Dr Berdoy has been at the forefront of championing the importance of good training for scientists to ensure researchers are motivated to replace animal experiments, reduce the number of animals through better design, and improve welfare.

His work has emphasised the importance of understanding the biology and behaviour of animals, and his film The Laboratory Rat: A Natural History, which followed laboratory rats that quickly assumed natural behaviour after being released to an outside enclosure, is now used worldwide as a training tool for those working with animals in laboratories.

Dr Berdoy, of Oxford University Biomedical Services, said: 'I am one of those who think that everything starts with ethics, closely followed by education. A solid understanding of experimental design and statistics, of why animals do what they do, and animal welfare is in my view essential in 21st-century biomedical sciences, and I have been working along those lines simultaneously.

'The RSPCA has had, and continues to have, an important role in this delicate but essential topic by tackling it in a balanced and constructive way. Thus I am particularly touched by the fact that this award links in some way, and rather uniquely, animal experimentation and animal welfare efforts.'

Dr Berdoy has won the Sir Patrick Moore Award, set up in memory of the former astronomer and honorary RSPCA vice-president, and given for outstanding contribution to animal welfare science.