JCU Vet School embraces animal welfare
James Cook University’s discipline of veterinary science has helped launch a new tool for vets looking to care for animals in an ethical way.
The One Welfare portal will provide vets and veterinary students with essays and scenarios that confront them with dilemmas and help sharpen their approach to the ethics underlying animal care.
JCU Veterinary School’s Dr Janice Lloyd, Senior Lecturer in Veterinary Behaviour, Welfare and Ethics, said the portal has been developed in conjunction with seven other veterinary schools in Australia and New Zealand and with the help of a $378,000 grant from the Office for Learning and Teaching.
“The project aims to keep veterinarians well informed about animal welfare issues so they can apply sound critical thinking skills to solve the ethical dilemmas they will encounter in practice,” she said.
Dr Lloyd said there was an international movement towards better treatment of animals. “There is growing public concern and the Australian community looks to veterinarians as leading advocates for the welfare of all animals.”
The portal will support the “five freedoms for animals” guidelines, developed by Professor John Webster from the University of Bristol, and the “five domains” concept developed by Professor David Mellor at Massey University in New Zealand (see below).
Vets and veterinary students will be confronted with scenarios ranging from a request to euthanise a healthy dog after its owners move to a smaller property to the question of what to do as heat-stressed animals die on a live-export voyage.
The JCU Veterinary School lecturer said the problems were far from just academic exercises. “Research suggests vets encounter at least two serious ethical dilemmas a week. The portal will give them a framework to work through these and help them make decisions they can be comfortable with.”
The website is now being progressively rolled out.
“Ultimately we hope to be able to offer the learning resources to all undergraduate and graduate veterinarians to reshape veterinary and animal science education to meet the need for competence in the often tricky field of welfare and ethics,” said Dr Lloyd.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for JCU to show itself as a Centre for Excellence in the teaching of Animal Welfare and Ethics in a global sense.”
The five freedoms:
1. Freedom from hunger and thirst: by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour.
2. Freedom from discomfort: by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.
3. Freedom from pain, injury or disease: by prevention through rapid diagnosis and treatment.
4. Freedom to express normal behaviour: by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind.
5. Freedom from fear and distress: by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.
The five domains:
1. Nutrition: e.g., appropriate consumption of nutritious foods is a pleasurable experience.
2. Environmental: e.g., benign conditions offer adaptive choices and variety.
3. Health: e.g., physically sound (uninjured, disease-free) animals enjoy good health.
4. Behaviour: e.g., environment-focused and inter-animal activities are satisfying and engaging.
5. Mental or Affective State: e.g., animals experience comfort, pleasure, interest and confidence.
About the JCU Bachelor of Veterinary Science
James Cook University’s veterinary science students will acquire the knowledge and skills to diagnose, treat and prevent disease in a wide range of animals including companion animals, farm animals, aquatic species and native fauna. In addition, students will acquire a thorough knowledge of animal production systems, particularly tropical animal husbandry and aquaculture.
The program offers state-of-the-art teaching facilities in a new veterinary emergency and referral clinic on the Townsville campus and a specialist large-animal treatment facility on the tablelands, which provide clinical experience and training for final-year students.
Program title: Bachelor of Veterinary Science
Location: Townsville, Queensland
Semester intake: February
Program duration: 5 years