By: Dr. Courtney Daigle
In November, the Department of Animal Science sent the first Animal Welfare Judging Team to compete in the 17th Annual Intercollegiate Animal Welfare Judging and Assessment Contest at Iowa State University. Over 250 graduate, undergraduate, and veterinary students from 18 universities across the US and Canada evaluated the welfare of farmed fish, meat rabbits, racing greyhounds, and finisher pigs. This year’s undergraduate team placed 8th and was coached by graduate student, Rachel Park and advised by Dr. Courtney Daigle, assistant professor of animal welfare. Team members included Caroline Campbell, Logan Roper, Xandra Meneses, and Amanda Wilgus.
The American Veterinary Medical Association and Merck Animal Health partnered together to provide a unique educational experience that allowed students to strengthen their vocabulary and reasoning skills. The competition teaches students to assess the welfare of animals in a variety of settings using science-based methods and reasoning. Students are given the opportunity to weigh evidence and present sound evaluations. This contest ensures that tomorrow’s leaders in the animal industries develop strong communication skills and acquire enhanced knowledge of animal welfare. Each year, the species and situations to be evaluated changes.
The AWJAC relies on hypothetical, realistic computer-viewed scenarios containing performance, health, physiologic and behavioral data. These are evaluated by students individually to determine which facility has a higher level of welfare. Each student then presents their rationale orally to judges with expertise in animal welfare science and specific knowledge of the species they are judging. Students also participate in a team assessment exercise, typically conducted at an operating animal facility. Teams of three to five students give presentations to a panel of judges occasionally consisting of their recommendations for welfare-related changes at the facility.
For more information regarding news from the Department of Animal Science, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Texas A&M University, please contact Maggie Tucker at firstname.lastname@example.org or (979) 845-1542.