The importance of animal welfare science and ethics to veterinary students in Australia and New Zealand
The study of animal welfare and ethics (AWE) as part of veterinary education is important due to increasing community concerns and expectations about this topic, global pressures regarding food security, and the requirements of veterinary accreditation, especially with respect to Day One Competences. To address several key questions regarding the attitudes to AWE of veterinary students in Australia and New Zealand (NZ), the authors surveyed the 2014 cohort of these students. The survey aimed (1) to reveal what AWE topics veterinary students in Australia and NZ consider important as Day One Competences, and (2) to ascertain how these priorities align with existing research on how concern for AWE relates to gender and stage of study. Students identified triage and professional ethics as the most important Day One Competences in AWE. Students ranked an understanding of triage as increasingly important as they progressed through their program. Professional ethics was rated more important by early and mid-stage students than by senior students. Understanding the development of animal welfare science and perspectives on animal welfare were rated as being of little importance to veterinary graduates as Day One Competences, and an understanding of ''why animal welfare matters'' declined as the students progressed through the program. Combined, these findings suggest that veterinary students consider it more important to have the necessary practical skills and knowledge to function as a veterinarian on their first day in practice.