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U.S. Animal Welfare Expert Dr. Ted Friend Retires After 35 Years

29 May 2015 2:02 PM | Deleted user

US animal welfare expert Dr Ted Friend is retiring after 38 years at Texas A&M University. Friend, a faculty fellow, testified as a key expert witness in multiple animal welfare cases throughout the US, and was also heavily involved in studying the effects of the transport of slaughter horses.  

His fascination with circus animals brought him additional national recognition in early 2000 when he studied the transport and management of elephants and tigers that were part of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circuses and six other circuses.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” said Friend, who will soon retire from the department, reflecting back on his career that began at Texas A&M in 1977. He was hired at Texas A&M following graduation from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University with his doctorate and master’s degrees.

Friend’s research evaluated fatigue and dehydration of transporting horses to slaughter plants, which received US Department of Agriculture funding.

“There was a need for research on evaluating fatigue, dehydration and density,” he said. “There was no better place than Texas during the summer (to conduct these studies.)”

At the time, his research helped lay the groundwork for the US and Canadian regulations for the transport of slaughter horses. Several years ago, a ban on the slaughter of horses for human consumption was implemented in the US. As a result, increasing numbers of unwanted horses are now being transported for much longer distances to plants in Mexico and Canada.

In the early years, Friend spent all of his time in the classroom at the Kleberg Animal Science Building teaching until Dr. Neville Clarke, then director of Texas A&M AgriLife Research, split his time between teaching and animal behavior research. Since then he and his students have published research articles on veal calves, swine, dairy cattle, beef cattle, horses, elephants, tigers, companion animals and teaching.

Friend said his research on circus animals led to expert testimony in several cities across the US, including Seattle. Having made little headway claiming cruelty, Seattle activists then claimed the elephants were dangerous to the audience. When the manager of their arena said that he knew of no reported incidences involving elephants, but there were dozens from hockey games, laughter erupted and the attempt to ban elephants was dropped for that year.

“From a welfare standpoint there is little difference between circuses and horse, dog and livestock shows,” he said.

“You’d hear what appeared to initially be convincing arguments, but research often finds the claims have little basis. However, we still need to do better whenever possible,” Friend said. “If you look at what is happening today, some of these same welfare issues are now affecting the beef industry and diet discussions among citizens across the US.”

Friend and his wife, Kathryn, a retired wildlife biologist at Texas A&M, have two sons: Scott, a Texas A&M graduate, and Justin, who was recently featured in the Wall Street Journal depicting his young, successful career as a standout welder who received a degree from Texas State Technical College in Waco.

As a young boy, Justin helped his father with his initial circus animal behavior studies. Traveling with circuses was incredibly interesting, Friend said. However, it meant long hours because most circuses moved to a different town each night.

Getting someone to go along and help was initially a challenge, Friend said, because amenities such as a bed or a hot shower were not possible. But his young son did not know any better.

“These preliminary data Justin and I collected were just what I needed to get federal funding for several graduate students and a nice travel trailer with a shower,” Friend said. “I think my son’s playing with the kids traveling with the circuses gave him a great work ethic, just like ranch and farm kids. Bringing my son along also made us more welcome.”

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