Teaching Veterinarians Animal Welfare In Latin America
Concern about animal welfare is rising around the world, and the rise has implications that are broad and far-reaching. In Latin America, researchers have been studying and publishing on animal welfare issues at an increasing rate: by some estimates, five times as many papers on animal welfare have been published in Latin American journals in the last decade than the one previous.
Veterinarians in particular are interested in animal welfare as a topic, and with good reason. Whether a vet deals with companion animals, wild animals, or farmed animals, they are often seen by the rest of society as experts on animal welfare, and ensuring they have a competence in animal welfare issues is crucial. This paper, a review of literature, looks at the current drivers of change in teaching animal welfare in Latin America, the standards that exist for teaching animal welfare, and how advances could be made using project based learning and gamification.
From the outset, the paper highlights a tension in the veterinary profession: in the field of farming animals, animal welfare is primarily seen as a facet of “productivity.” This paper doesn’t challenge that premise at all, and instead notes that vets have been working with farmers for years to “maximize production levels” while simultaneously enhancing welfare.
Of course, this will raise a red flag for animal welfare advocates. Fortunately, the paper also notes that concern for farmed animal welfare is on the rise in Latin America and abroad, and that following rising international standards will be essentially mandatory as regulations become harmonized. Furthermore, the paper notes that, with intensive housing systems becoming more common, farmers, workers, and vets need to continually be evaluating the animal welfare of the animals in their care. They note the “Welfare Quality” program as one potential touchstone in this process.
From a focus on farmed animals, the paper notes that vet students should not only learn about farmed animals, but should leave school knowing methods of care for companion animals, wild animals, animals being transported and slaughter, and animals used for research. This develops into a discussion of how best to teach vet students, and this paper concentrates on project-based learning and gamification in particular. The section on gamification discusses some possibilities, including role playing and contests to motivate students to learn.
The paper shows just how much animal welfare is growing in Latin America, and for animal advocates, there are many encouraging signs: veterinary students are getting strong fundamentals in companion animal welfare, and are learning more and more about welfare standards for farmed animals that may help to raise Latin American welfare standards to European levels. The authors emphasize that university instruction needs to remain practical and useful as it moves forward, and there is still much room for improvement in Latin American veterinary teaching.