The Gold Standard of Animal Welfare Positive and Negative Impact on Animals and Veterinarians Animal Welfare and Veterinary Ethics: Global Challenges for Animals and Veterinarians
World Small Animal Veterinary Association Congress Proceedings, 2019
H. Bacon
Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare Education, Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK


Animal welfare is an area of increasing interest to the global veterinary community. Because of their role in animal health and disease, veterinarians are perceived by society to be experts in animal welfare, and are expected to make judgements about the welfare of animals both in their care and beyond (Siegford, et al. 2010). Additionally, both the Federation of Vets of Europe (FVE) and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) state that “Veterinarians are, and must continually strive to be, the leading advocates for the good welfare of animals in a continually evolving society” (FVE-AVMA 2011).

However, this expectation also presents many challenges for our profession. Historically, veterinarians have not been well-trained in the science of animal welfare, and the robust application of veterinary ethics may be lacking across the curriculum. In some countries, veterinarians are still trained by performing aversive procedures on animals, (Patronek & Rauch 2007). Such practices may have a harmful impact on students’ attitudes to animals (Paul & Podberscek 2000) and on their learning experience (Balcombe 1997, Hart, et al. 2005, Martinsen & Jukes 2005), potentially leading to objectification and reduced empathy.

Accepted standards of veterinary ethics may sometimes clash with regional or cultural ethical viewpoints around the acceptability of different veterinary procedures such as amputation or euthanasia. In some areas a lack of veterinary regulation may create confusion about the role and responsibilities of veterinarians, and variations in drug availability and licensing may present challenges in anaesthesia and analgesia which contrast with the increasing professional interest in ever more complex veterinary procedures. These multiple and complex issues influence the ways in which we as veterinarians value and treat the animals that we are responsible for. By understanding the interplay between our own ethical decision-making and our impacts on the welfare of the animals we’re responsible for, we can strive to safeguard animal welfare even in challenging situations.

More guidance may be found at: (VIN editor: Link was modified 9-24-2020).


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2.  FVE-AVMA. 2011. Joint Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE) and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Statement on The Roles of Veterinarians in Ensuring Good Animal Welfare.

3.  Hart LA, Wood MW, Weng HY. 2005. Mainstreaming alternatives in veterinary medical education: Resource development and curricular reform. Journal of Veterinary Medical Education. 32: 473–480.

4.  Martinsen S, Jukes N 2005. Towards a humane veterinary education. Journal of Veterinary Medical Education. 32: 454.

5.  Patronek GJ, Rauch A. 2007. Systematic review of comparative studies examining alternatives to the harmful use of animals in biomedical education. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 230: 37–43.

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7.  Siegford JM, Cottee SY, Widowski TM. 2010. opportunities for learning about animal welfare from online courses to graduate degrees. Journal of Veterinary Medical Education. 37: 49–55.

Speaker Information
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H. Bacon
Jeanne Marchig International Centre For Animal Welfare Education
Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies
University of Edinburgh
Edinburgh, UK