Free Online Course Offered on Animal Welfare

Fri, 11 Jul 2014

SCOTLAND - A free online course that offers people the chance to learn more about the ethics and science of animal welfare begins on Monday (14 July).

The five-week course from the University of Edinburgh and Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) is designed for people with no previous knowledge of veterinary medicine or animal science.

More than 23,000 people, from 152 countries, have already signed up for this Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), titled Animal Behaviour and Welfare.

Animal welfare experts from the University’s Jeanne Marchig International Animal Welfare Centre and SRUC will cover a range of topics in a discipline that frequently provokes emotive debate.

These will include an examination of the ethics of keeping wild animals in zoos; problems experienced by farm animals; pet behaviour; and how welfare issues are handled in different parts of the world.

The course will be delivered via the Coursera learning platform – a partnership of international universities that offers free higher education standard learning opportunities to all.

Programmes will be taught using a mix of short videos, interactive learning materials, quizzes, and peer-to-peer discussions. Learners are encouraged to help each other examine key points and to debate issues.

Dr Jill MacKay, Animal Welfare Researcher at SRUC, said: “SRUC aims to promote sustainable, high welfare farming. However, the world’s growing population has increased demands on agricultural animals, and we now need to ensure that people truly understand the welfare needs of animals, whether they are domestic, farmed or wild.”

The programme is one of three Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) being offered this year and next by the University’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies.

The other courses are entitled 'EDIVET: Do you have what it takes to be a Veterinarian?', which offers learners a taster of what is covered in the first year of a veterinary medicine degree at the University and Equine Nutrition, which examines the dietary requirements for horses and other equine species.

Professor Nat Waran, Director of the University’s Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare Education, said: “Animal welfare is a wide-ranging subject and it often attracts heated debate, but if we are to achieve higher standards of animal welfare worldwide, we need to be able to rely on more than our emotional response. We need to use tools, such as this free online course, to provide credible and accessible animal welfare education resources to present the case for improving welfare standards.”

To sign up, or to find out more, visit the Coursera web site.