Differences in learning about animal welfare across Europe

Illmann, G., Keeling, L., Melišová, M., Šimečková, M., Ilieski, V., Winckler, C., Košťál, L., Meunier-Salaün, M.C., Mihina, Š., Spoolder, H., Fthenakis, G., Šárová, R., & Špinka, M. (2014). Mapping farm animal welfare education at university level in Europe. Animal Welfare, 23, 401-410.

Focusing on farm animal welfare (FAW) education, this study aims to identify the existing differences in teaching the subject at universities across Europe.

This study was part of Animal Welfare Research in an enlarged Europe (AWARE), which is an EU-funded project that hopes to promote integration and increase the impact of European research on farm animal welfare. Using a web-based questionnaire, 168 universities were asked to take part in the study, of which 98 participated. The questions covered four main variables which were: the hours of FAW teaching, the number of European Credit Transfer System associated with the course, the ‘fundamental’ focus index which reflected the subjects that were addressed, and the ‘interactive’ teaching index which focused on the teaching methods being used.

Farm animal welfare education does not differ greatly across Europe

The 26 countries covered in the study were grouped into 5 regions: Mediterranean, North West, West Central Europe, Balkans and East Central Europe. The results of the questionnaire showed that there was more FAW education in the North West than any other region, as well as there being the most interactive style of teaching in those countries, such as farm visits and group discussions. The most ‘transmissive’ style of teaching, such as lecturing, was found in West Central Europe. It also found that there were no regional differences in the content of courses, but regions did seem to favor either more applied topics, such as legislation, or fundamental topics, such as ethics.

Overall, the results showed most significantly that, in the North West region, courses contained a higher number of hours, were more interactive, and were more likely to be taught in English in comparison to other regions teaching FAW across Europe.

World Animal Protection’s view

We believe that farm animal welfare education is important to help people understand the issues associated with farming. It is also critical to evaluate the current approaches to delivering farm animal welfare education, so that best practices can be developed.