Measuring the success of a farm animal welfare education event
Education of children about farm animal welfare could affect welfare standards, through influence on current and future purchasing of animal products, and improve general consideration for animals. Establishing success requires evaluation. Here, a farm animal educational event for 13 to 14 year-old schoolchildren, focusing on chicken biology, welfare and food labelling, was assessed. Alterations in knowledge, attitude and a proxy measure of behaviour towards animals and their welfare, key aspects expected to impact on animal welfare, were investigated using questionnaires. These key aspects were predicted to increase following event attendance and remain higher than in the non-attending control group three months later. Knowledge and positive behaviour towards specific poultry species increased significantly in attendees but, although remaining greater than pre-attendance, tended to diminish over time. Value afforded to animal life was unaffected by the event. Consideration of welfare needs was significantly greater overall in attendees than non-attendees, but appeared to be characteristic of children choosing to attend the event, rather than the event per se. Importance attributed to animal welfare followed a hierarchy from survival-relevant, eg freedom from hunger and thirst, to less critical needs, eg stimulation. The specific species under consideration had the most significant effect on attitudes; consistent with predictions based on perceptions of the animals' 'complexity', cognitive ability, similarity to humans and use. Further investigation into the aetiology of attitude and potential barriers to attitude change is required to effect attitude change and determine whether attitude alteration could support maintenance of shifts in knowledge and behaviour.
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