Lord LK1, Walker JL1, Croney C1, Golab G21 Department of Veterinary Preventive Medicine, The Ohio State University2 Animal Welfare Division, American Veterinary Medical Association
An online survey was conducted to compare 46 veterinary students who previously enrolled in a discussion-based animal welfare elective with 45 veterinary students who did not take the course. Students were matched on gender and class year. In addition to collecting demographic information, students were asked a series of questions about their attitudes toward animal welfare, including its importance in the curriculum, and were also asked to rank the importance of various groups that might contribute to animal welfare decisions. Students were presented with scenarios that had not previously been discussed in the elective course: greyhound racing, veal calf production and the use of genetically engineered mice in research. Students were asked how much they thought they understood about each scenario and their actual knowledge was scored based on open-ended factual questions. Students were also asked how comfortable they were educating themselves about each topic and to describe factors they would use to evaluate the welfare of animals in that scenario. Factors were categorized as to whether they would affect biological functioning, feelings, or the natural behavioral aspects of welfare. There was no significant difference in actual knowledge of components of the three scenarios between students who took the course and those who did not. Students who took the course were significantly more likely to be comfortable about educating themselves on each of the three scenarios and scored significantly higher in identifying welfare factors necessary for a complete assessment of the welfare impacts of each scenario than students who did not take the course. The results suggest this approach to instruction is an effective way to teach veterinary students about how to educate themselves about animal welfare issues and to increase their confidence in appropriately evaluating novel animal welfare topics.