A recent survey of animal welfare, animal behavior, and animal ethics courses in the curricula of veterinary colleges and schools concludes that there is a "need to provide more formal education on animal welfare, behavior, and ethics so veterinarians can be advocates for animals and assist with behavioral challenges".
It's a sobering conclusion when you recognise that the law, the public, and the veterinary profession itself, regards veterinarians as society's animal health and welfare experts. For example, have a look at relevant legislation (e.g. the Animal Welfare Act (or equivalent)) - that singular piece of legislation specifically identifies the veterinarian as the authoritative professional opinion that's often pivotal to determining an animal's welfare, and the subsequent actions to be taken. In turn, those decisions potentially affect the finances, reputation and liability of those involved, in addition to the life - or death - of the animal(s) in question.
Asking veterinarians about their definition of "animal welfare" commonly results in a wide and varied list of responses including "something to do with the five freedoms", "a happy animal", and "any situation where the animal isn't experiencing pain". There are a few that quickly, confidently and succinctly set out the law's clear definition of animal welfare. And it's that definition which sets the legal benchmark to be referenced by lawyers (i.e. defense and prosecution), a wide variety of clients from corporates to individuals, and the veterinarians themselves if their expert opinion is ever challenged.
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