Obituary: Professor David Bradmore

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The Independent Online
David Blackmore was a pioneer in the science of animal welfare. He applied his energy, science and enthusiasm to strip away the shrouds of statistics, pol- itics and opinions and make a unique contribution to improving the welfare of domestic and wild animals.

In 1991 Blackmore was asked by the New Zealand government to prepare a paper for the International Whaling Commission (IWC) on the humaneness of the methods used for the slaughter and euthanasia of whales. His paper indicated areas of concern and a need for investigation to ensure that stranded whales, unable to be returned to the sea, were slaughtered using pain-free methods.

So it was in supposed retirement, and despite failing health, that Blackmore established the New Zealand Foundation for the Study of the Welfare of Whales in 1992. He initially gathered together a team of leading scientists to carry out basic anatomical and biophysical studies of whales, working only on dead whales from strandings.

The team pioneered unique research. They developed a method of obtaining acrylic replicas of the arterial system supplying blood to the brain of whales. The local hospital allowed the use of its CT scanner to provide detailed examinations of the heads. Trials with explosives, projectiles and electricity have been carried out. Blackmore and his team discovered new data about the anatomy and physiology of whales including how the blood is supplied to the brain and how they echo-locate.

Blackmore graduated from London University with a BSc in veterinary science and four prizes for academic excellence. Three years in general practice won him the William Hunting Prize for his work on ovine obstetrics. As Lecturer in Pathology at his Alma Mater, his work on chlorinated hydrocarbon insecticide poisoning in foxes earned Blackmore the Fellowship of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.

Following six years with Petfoods Ltd, in 1967 he moved to the Medical Research Council Laboratory Animals Centre in Carshalton, Surrey, as Pathologist and Deputy Director. Blackmore's research developed the use of germ-free and gnotobiotic animals (animals born in a sterile environment with no inherited immunities) as a means of making animal research more scientifically valid.

He gained an international reputation as a humorist with his article in the Veterinary Record in the early Seventies entitled "Some Observations on the Diseases of Brunus Edwardii (Species Nova)", on a range of "diseases" suffered by the teddy bear.

In 1973 the Blackmore family moved to New Zealand, where Blackmore took up the newly established chair in Veterinary Public Health and Meat Hygiene at Massey University in Palmerston North. It was a critical time for the meat industry in New Zealand and Blackmore used the best experimental approaches to improve and assure quality. Postgraduate training programmes were developed, spreading his influence into the broad field of veterinary public health in New Zealand and overseas. He made a major advance in research into zoonotic disease, virtually eliminating leptospirosis - a disease caught by farmers from cows.

Blackmore's most dramatic impact in the last two years was at the meetings of the International Whaling Commission. Japanese whalers in the Antarctic use an electric current to kill whales still alive after the impact of the exploding harpoon. Blackmore scientifically proved that the electric lance is ineffective and unacceptably cruel. Supported by Britain and New Zealand, he lead the initiative to ban the lance. With Norway supporting Japan, Blackmore's combat with the highly accomplished Norwegian veterinary scientists is already legendary. Despite the politics, the lance will be banned by the IWC in the next couple of years.

David Killoch Blackmore, veterinarian: born 10 May 1931; Professor of Veterinary Public Health and Meat Hygiene, Massey University 1973-89 (Emeritus); CBE 1990; married 1955 June Wrapson (two sons, one daughter); died Palmerston North, New Zealand 10 November 1996.

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