Educators' Perspectives on Animal Welfare and Ethics in the Australian and New Zealand Veterinary Curricula.J Vet Med Educ. 2018 Winter; 45(4):448-463.JV
The current study was designed to explore the importance that veterinary science educators in Australian and New Zealand universities assign to animal welfare and ethics (AWE) topics as Day One/Initial Competences for new graduates. An online questionnaire was deployed in parallel with an equivalent study of veterinary science students at these educators' schools. Responses were received from 142 educators (51% females n=72 and 49% males n=70), representing an overall participation rate of 25%. Questions were clustered according to seven areas of veterinary employment: general practice, production animals, companion animals, wild animals, aquatic animals, animals kept for scientific purposes, and animals used in sport and recreation. The most highly rated topics for each of these clusters were: professional ethics in general practice, euthanasia in companion animals, strategies to address painful husbandry procedures in production animals, veterinarians' duties to wild animals in animals in the wild, aquatic animal health and welfare issues in aquatic animals; competence in the 3Rs (replacement, refinement and reduction) in animals kept for scientific purposes, and responsibilities of ownership in sport and recreation. Female educators rated many of the topics as significantly more important than did their male counterparts. Educators teaching one or more ethics-related subjects were less likely to rate neutering and euthanasia as important as those not teaching these subjects. The educators' focus on practical issues clashes with a perceived need for veterinarians to actively embrace animal ethics. Overall, the perspectives of these educators should be carefully considered as they are likely to influence student attitudes.