For the Sake of Production—And the Animal, and Me. How Students at Danish Agricultural Colleges Perceive AnimalWelfare
By I. Anneberg, J. Lassen and P. Sandøe (2021).
Since farmers’ perceptions of animal welfare affect the way they treat their animals, it is important to study the formation of the attitudes of future farmers and farm workers. Using individual and focus group interviews, we studied how education affects Danish agricultural students’ view of animal welfare. We also interviewed teachers at the agricultural colleges to see how they perceive the importance of animal welfare. Our results show that students, both older and younger, often see animal welfare as valuable if it can be combined with productivity. To an extent, the students also focused on the importance of having a personal, positive relationship with the animals. Older teachers indicated that animal welfare has a much bigger impact today than it did 20 years ago, and all the teachers felt it should be included across all relevant subjects. However, animal welfare is not defined in any particular way in the relevant curricula. Agricultural education ought to have an important role in teaching about animal welfare in a society where farmers are increasingly required to engage in market-driven improvements in animal welfare.
Farmers’ perceptions of animal welfare have been found to affect the way they treat their animals, and there is growing awareness of the range of ethical views today’s farmers take on animal welfare. The purpose of this study was to examine how perceptions of animal welfare develop among prospective farmers and farm workers in Denmark during their studies at agricultural colleges. We also examined the experiences of college teachers and their views on the inclusion of animal welfare in livestock courses. Drawing on individual interviews and focus group interviews at four Danish agricultural colleges, we used systematic text condensation to identify three major themes among the students: 1. The importance of balancing welfare and productivity, 2. Concerns about the animal itself, 3. Concerns relating to the students themselves. Our interviews with teachers revealed a growing awareness of the inclusion of animal welfare in Danish agricultural colleges, but also disagreements over the way animal welfare should be understood. We conclude that the education of future farmers in Danish agricultural colleges today embraces animal welfare but should leave more room in the future to introduce students to the issue of market-driven welfare and consumer interest in animal-friendly production.