World Animal Protection’s ‘First Concepts of Animal Welfare’ focuses on animal welfare education at school level, and is a useful guide and resource on this. It also explains the difference between animal welfare education and humane education.
Essentially, animal welfare education is one element of humane education. The two are sometimes confused because many animal welfare groups consider their educational work to be humane education, when it is in fact just one aspect of this (for example, concentrating on animal issues and/or responsible companion animal ownership).
Animal welfare education promotes knowledge, understanding, skills, attitudes and values related to human involvement in the lives of animals. It includes the effects on animals’ abilities to satisfy their needs, and human responsibilities as a result. It can bring about beneficial changes in the treatment of animals at the hands of humans, but can stop short of bringing about lasting attitudinal change – especially if carried out in an instructional or piecemeal way.
Animal welfare education can also be targeted to audiences other than school children, and some of these are very important for the future development of animal welfare in industry, government and higher education. For example:
It is important that animal welfare training becomes an essential part of the professional development of any person planning to work with animals or in animal policy including: policy and enforcement officials, animal wardens, veterinarians, stockmen/women, slaughter-men/women and all other animal industries and researchers.
The inclusion of animal welfare in tertiary education is of vital importance. This can be a useful focus of animal protection advocacy (if not already included). World Animal Protection has prepared an excellent syllabus designed to assist with the teaching of animal welfare science to tertiary level audiences, which is freely available on its website.
Animal welfare training for veterinarians is especially important because of their future potential for spreading the welfare message and promoting good practice. In some countries, veterinarians and other animal professionals are still completing their professional training without any real understanding of animal ethics and welfare. This is clearly an area for animal protection lobbying and influence, and for well-resourced animal groups to play an active educational role.
There are also many online courses available on animal welfare at the moment. World Animal Protection lists some of these on its website.