Experts hope to attract sport and equine enthusiasts to interactive science lectures

Published: 5 February 2007 at 10:10

Two senior lecturers from Anglia Ruskin University’s Faculty of Science and Technology are presenting interactive lectures during the Cambridge Science Festival (12-25 March) which have been added to the programme to engage people with a passion for sports science and/or equine welfare.

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The lectures on Wednesday, 21 March will be staged at the Mumford Theatre, East Road, Cambridge from 5.00pm

Dr Dan Gordon Senior Lecturer in Exercise Physiology, who is Manager of the Human Energetics and Performance Laboratory at Anglia Ruskin University, is hoping to dispel some of the mysteries surrounding sport during his lecture entitled White Men Can’t Jump?. The title picks up on the fact that there are many clear patterns in terms of sports participation and performance and debates why many top sprinters are of black origin and top swimming champions are notably white.

The main focus will be a discussion as to why the majority of the World’s top endurance runners are from Kenya, and significantly from one particular tribe, the Kalejin; and so raising the question about whether athletes are simply born winners or whether they work to be the best.

“It is potentially all very much about genetics”,

explains Dr Gordon,

“or more specifically inherent genes. We are looking at the physiological differences of top sports men and women and comparing these with the sociological or environmental factors. What the arguments tend to revolve around is the balance of the two.”

“We are very encouraged that we have been invited to speak at the forthcoming Cambridge Science Festival. Sports science is no longer a minority discipline but is now holding its own with mainstream science particularly in the run up to the hugely-exciting 2012 Olympic Games.”

“Sport is coming to the fore with increased national focus on every area.  If we apply a more scientific approach to sport we can change the philosophy of the nation in terms of the way we perform, exercise and promote better health and wellbeing.”

The second science lecture from Anglia Ruskin University experts is based on what could be perceived as a more controversial subject, that of the welfare of horses.  In the lecture, entitled The Big Issues in Equine Welfare Today, Dr Mark Kennedy, Senior Lecturer in Animal Welfare, will be looking at the diverse uses horses are put to in the UK and the issues that arise from the way they are managed.  He will be outlining how they are fed, stabled, restrained and ridden and will be reviewing reproductive techniques, including some of the new technologies such as embryo transfer and cloning.

“I will be focusing on a practical scientific approach to the subject of equine welfare which will contrast with some views on the subject often originated by animal rights supporters.  Animal rights and animal welfare approaches differ considerably; the former view is often absolutist claiming that animals should not be used at all for a particular purpose, whereas the latter assesses the acceptability of particular uses and management practices by evaluating their effect upon the welfare of the animal.”

“It is the horse owners and people working in the equine industry that I would like to encourage to come to this lecture to jointly explore ways in which we can make positive step changes within the area of equine welfare.  Being passionately interested in animal welfare I want to be able to make practical improvements to the way horses are treated. Rather than somewhat unrealistically calling for particular practices to be banned, based on a belief that they are harmful rather than knowledge that they are so, let us investigate our uses of horses using science to evaluate the impact of such practices on their welfare, and then use these facts as evidence when calling for change.”

“Animal rights supporters can help if they can channel their energies more productively. We can use horses for sport and leisure and enjoy using them as long as we ensure that their welfare is the paramount consideration.”

Anyone who would like to listen to the viewpoints of Anglia Ruskin University’s experts in sports science and animal welfare, is welcome to attend the free lectures in the Mumford Theatre on Wednesday, 21 MarchThe Big Issues in Equine Welfare Today is at 5.00pm followed by White Men Can’t Jump at 7.00pm.  For further information on either lecture, please contact science@anglia.ac.uk

The Cambridge Science Festival is staged to coincide with National Science Week (9-18 March).