Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

November 12, 2004

U of G gets 23rd Canada Research Chair

Prime Minister Paul Martin today bestowed the University of Guelph with its 23rd prestigious Canada Research Chair (CRC).

Martin named Georgia Mason, an animal and poultry science professor, a Tier 2 chair in Food Animal Behaviour and Welfare during an event in Vancouver. Tier 2 chairs are considered emerging leaders in their fields and receive $100,000 a year for five years. In all, Martin, along with Industry Minister David Emerson, who oversees the CRC program, announced 194 new chairs and $194 million in support from the CRC and Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), which contributed more than $23 million to fund essential research infrastructure.

“We’re proud that the funding announced today will support research by Canada’s leading scholarly and scientific minds,” Martin said, adding that the research chairs will have a direct effect on the lives of Canadians and the nation’s economy.

Mason, who came to U of G from the University of Oxford, said she was “excited and flattered” to be chosen as a CRC. Her research will focus on the welfare of animals kept by humans, such as food animals and wild animals in zoos. She hopes to learn more about animal consciousness and how they experience pleasure and pain.

“Worldwide, billions of animals are kept by humans for food, research and other functions – 190 million in Canada alone,” said Mason. “We need to assess and improve the welfare of these animals for ethical and legal reasons, and often for practical reasons too.”

Her research plans include looking at why some animal behaviour patterns become abnormal in captivity, as well as how different species vary in their response to captive husbandry and what it reveals about the evolutionary function of behavioural needs, such as the need to forage for food even when food is provided.

She also intends to study how early life experience – particularly in the quality and quantity of maternal care – modifies an animal’s long-term responses to challenges inherent in captivity.

“Prof. Mason’s area of expertise is as much about human behaviour as it is about animal welfare,” said Alan Wildeman, vice-president (research). “Her research challenges all of us to think more about the enormous control that we have over the lives of so many animals. We are grateful for the CRC program because without it, Prof. Mason would not have joined the University of Guelph.”

The federal CRC program was created in 2000 by the federal government to help universities retain and attract world-class faculty. To date, it has created 1,348 chairs at 73 Canadian universities.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Rachelle Cooper, Ext. 56982.

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