A VETERINARY nurse who has fought tirelessly against cruelty to bears and the illegal trade in dog meat is in line for a national award.
Hayley Walters works in welfare and anaesthesia at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies at Edinburgh University.
But her love of animals previously took her to the Far East for three years, where she worked to help captive bears used in traditional Chinese medicine.
She has been shortlisted for a Ceva Welfare Award in the Welfare Nurse of the Year category for her overseas volunteering and her passion for teaching veterinary medicine.
Hayley, of Brunstfield, now lectures at the university’s Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare Education.
She said: “Education has to be the answer when it comes to the improving conditions for animals in developing countries, and if we teach the next generation of vets then we stand a much better chance of achieving this. I have loved animals all my life.”
The 36-year-old has been a veterinary nurse for 18 years and worked close to Chengdu to rehabilitate bears who had spent long years in captivity in bile farms, in cramped conditions and in excruciating pain.
Hayley, who is originally from Derbyshire, worked originally as a volunteer for the charity Animals Asia which has helped to rescue hundreds of bears, rehoming them in natural enclosures.
Her role involved health checks on the animals and monitoring them while they were receiving treatment. She said: “What’s wonderful is that after three or four years they start to trust you. Once they are with you they feel safe.
“All we had to do is bring them nice food and speak gently to them.”
While in Asia, she decided to adopt and bring home to Edinburgh a Thai street dog called Stewart, who had been destined for the dinner plate while living in a rescue shelter.
He was one of 3000 dogs intercepted on the border with Vietnam where there is a market for dog meat.
Because of her experience in China and teaching English in Paris, she was offered a position in Edinburgh.
“They were looking for a veterinary nurse with experience overseas, preferably Asia,” she said.
Judges described her as a caring veterinary nurse who goes “above and beyond the call of duty for animal welfare”.
They added: “She not only works hard looking after her day-to-day practice but also puts herself out to help others overseas.”
The awards ceremony will take place on April 8 in Birmingham, during the same week as the British Small Animal Veterinary Association congress.