A Novel Method for Teaching Animal Welfare Concepts: Animal Welfare Judging Teams
View this powerpoint presentation to view a competition scenario for welfare judging.

C.R. Heleski, A.J. Zanella, E.A. Pajor

Examining the welfare of animals in various production systems and making ethical evaluations of which is most appropriate continues to be a priority issue affecting many levels of animal agriculture. We have developed a model to increase education of animal welfare issues, while aligning ourselves with a traditional curriculum feature within animal science departments; i.e. judging teams.

Animal Welfare Judging Teams

We proposed one year ago that developing teams to educate young people about farm animal welfare then establishing competitions to assess their skill level would be one way to integrate welfare science into the mainstream of animal science curricula. Three other universities opted to join Michigan State in this pilot endeavor: Purdue University, University of Guelph and University of Wisconsin. Each team is being coached in the basics of understanding farm animals’ evolutionary biology, their biological needs, indicators of differing levels of welfare and how to holistically evaluate different facilities, stockmanship and management.

Based on pedagogical principles, the concept of integrating learning with competition is known to enhance learning and retention. Students are currently preparing for a competition, March 1, 2004. The competition will use CD-ROM’s with indicators of animal welfare ranging from physiological data, video and still clips, to behavioral responses and time budgets. Students will evaluate two scenarios for each species being judged, prepare their analysis, then make an oral presentation. The knowledge of welfare science, the integration of multiple measures and the persuasion of the oral presentation will be key in scoring the students.

Preliminary observations indicate that preparing the students for this competition has increased their knowledge base and has enhanced networking with university farm managers. It should be noted that while the assessment of various aspects of animal welfare can be objective and quantifiable, judgment decisions of what threshold level on the continuum between poor and good welfare is acceptable still come down to ethically examined choices.

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