A Toolbox for Animal Welfare Education

A new online resource, aimed at qualified vets
and veterinary science students,
is being developed by WSPA

Ellen Coombs

The Tertiary Education Toolbox1 is the newest addition to the Animal Mosaic website,2 and is a new supporting component of the tertiary education programme currently being developed by the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA).

WSPA’s approach to tertiary (i.e. post-compulsory) education is known as Advanced Concepts in Animal Welfare (ACAW). It involves working with veterinary colleges and animal science training institutions around the world, to ensure that animal welfare is included within the teaching curriculum and delivered effectively throughout their faculties. The Toolbox adds an extra dimension to WSPA’s newly launched 3rd edition of the Concepts in Animal Welfare (CAW) syllabus.3 Both components are designed to assist with the teaching of animal welfare to tertiary level audiences.

The Toolbox is a comprehensive collection of resources, designed to supplement and accompany the CAW modules, and consists of an online collection of high-quality animal welfare teaching tools. The online collection currently hosts materials from a large consortium of organisations, each providing resources that have been handpicked to fit into the respective Tools, Videos or Links sections. Contributors to the site include organisations, academic institutes and NGOs from around the world, such as the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the British Veterinary Association (BVA), and the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE).

The environment is readily searchable and userfriendly, and can easily be accessed by cohorts and learners of varying abilities. Once users have decided which section they want to use, they can refine resources with great accuracy. The structure of this virtual resource mirrors a library or a catalogue, where users can refine by Subject Area, Category, Language and even Region. The Subject Area and Category options are numerous and varied, with the number of different language articles increasing rapidly. The 3rd edition of the CAW resource is already available in Chinese, and Spanish and Portuguese versions will become available soon.

Users are provided with a choice of subjects and categories to select from, with a multiple selection function available to allow visitors to quickly and accurately find what they are looking for. The Toolbox hosts a plethora of resources on a variety of subjects designed to aid and support qualified veterinarians, veterinary science lecturers and tertiary-level veterinary students. Users can search through a wide range of resources tagged to subjects such as Behaviour, Legislation, Codes and Standards, Professional Skills, Slaughter and Euthanasia, and many more. An extra refinement box allows users to search by animal category, e.g. Companion animals, Farm animals, etc. Examples of tools that are currently hosted on the Toolbox include:
— canine and feline Acute Pain Scales (Colorado State University);
— general guidelines for vets, such as The Vet
– verinarians Animal Welfare Toolkit (New Zealand Veterinary Association) and the FVE’s European Code of Conduct and Veterinary Act;
— links to open access articles in journals such as ATLA and BioMed Central;
— information for vets on a wide range of subjects, including legislation (e.g. the OIE’s Guidelines on
Veterinary Legislation) and how to recognise abuse in humans and in animals;
— a virtual fetal pig dissection (Whitman College); and
— emergency case simulators (Royal Veterinary College).

The resources are high-quality and wide-ranging, to support a variety of subjects and real-life scenarios that veterinary students and qualified veterinarians might encounter. Alongside the CAW resource, the Toolbox can provide a platform for Continuing Professional Development (CPD) for graduates and for practising vets.
Website landing page

One purpose of the Toolbox is to gather resources which encourage the use of alternatives to live animal use in educational contexts. Teaching students via non-harmful alternatives (computer simulators, high-quality videos, models, and surgical simulators) is not only beneficial from an animal welfare perspective, but it can also be beneficial from a learning perspective. Studies of veterinary students were reviewed, by comparing learning outcomes generated by non-harmful teaching methods with those achieved through harmful animal use.4 Of papers analysed that were assessing the efficacy of teaching methods, 45.5% demonstrated superior learning outcomes when more humane alternatives were used, 45.5% demonstrated equivalent learning outcomes compared to when less-humane (or even harmful) teaching methods were used, and only 9.1% demonstrated inferior learning outcomes.4
Toolbox toolsThere are also the added benefits of using humane teaching methods, such as cost and time savings for students and faculties, better repeatability of exercises, increased student confidence and satisfaction, experience of the successful combining of clinical skills with ethics early in the curriculum, and compliance with animal use legislation.5 The Toolbox hosts simulators, case studies, virtual dissections, and links to other sites featuring alternatives to animal experimentation (such as Find Your Dissection Alternative, from Animalearn). It is anticipated that it will host many more similar resources in the future. The website access comes with the added benefit of being open to all, as well as free to all, and it requires no sign-up or academic affiliation. The available information is constantly being updated, as guidelines for best practice develop. Animal Mosaic also hosts a useful community forum, where users can join discussions and topics of interest. The site has recently been launched in Spanish.6
Students and educators are becoming ever-more confident in seeking out and using web-based materials to supplement traditional learning methods. However, users are bombarded with such a huge selection of resources, which can make sorting high-quality resources from low-quality resources a time-consuming task. As an educator, it can seem daunting to incorporate animal welfare education (AWE) into lesson plans or lectures. As a student, it can seem overwhelming to find additional high-quality and reliable resources to strengthen studies outside the classroom. The Toolbox has performed some of the preliminary hard work, and has gathered all the best animal welfare education resources from a wide range of organisations and individuals and put them in one comprehensive resource library. These resources can be used independently or alongside our Concepts in Animal Welfare resource.

Ellen Coombs
WSPA
222 Grays Inn Road
London WC1X 8HB UK
E-mail: EllenCoombs@wspa-international.org

References
1 http://www.animalmosaic.org/education/tertiaryeducation/
toolbox/default.aspx (Accessed 16.10.13).
2 http://www.animalmosaic.org/ (Accessed 16.10.13).
3 http://www.animalmosaic.org/education/tertiaryeducation/
advanced-concepts-in-animal-welfare/
default.aspx (Accessed 16.10.13).
4 Knight, A. (2007). Humane teaching methods prove efficacious within veterinary and other biomedical education. AATEX 14, Special Issue, 213–220.
5 Knight, A. (2007). The effectiveness of humane teaching methods in veterinary education. ALTEX 24, 91–109.
6 http://www.mosaicoanimal.org/ (Accessed 16.10.13

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