The Department of Animal Science Animal Welfare Judging Team at Texas A&M University is unique in that there are both graduate and undergraduate teams.
Participation is open to all intelligent, highly motivated, and talented students. While there is an undergraduate course in Animal Welfare Judging (ANSC 252), participants do not have to be enrolled in the course to compete in the contest. Students can compete as individuals or as part of a team and prepare by learning the species-specific biology, articulating the role of ethics in animal care, and interacting with industry experts.
Students are presented with hypothetical, realistic computer-viewed scenarios that outline performance, health, physiologic, and behavioral data of animals. Students evaluate these scenarios individually to determine which facility has a higher level of welfare and present their rationale orally to judges who have expertise in animal welfare science and knowledge of the specific species. The team assessment is conducted at an operating animal facility where students present their recommendations for changes to the facility that would better promote animal welfare.
Being part of the animal welfare judging team is a great challenge for students, as they must learn about several species of animals that they may or may not be familiar with. The preparation for this contest also requires teaching ethical decision making, empathy, how to connect the scientific literature to real situations, and how to perceive the world through the lens of the animal.
This contest ensures that tomorrow’s leaders in the animal industries develop strong communication skills and acquire enhanced knowledge of animal welfare. The contest is open to veterinary students, undergraduates, and graduate students. A limited number of veterinarians also take part each year as non-competitive participants. The contest is coordinated by the American Veterinary Medical Association and supported by Merck Animal Health.
The Animal Welfare Assessment Contest (AWJAC) aims to provide a unique educational experience while strengthening student 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.
- Animal Welfare Assessment Contest
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The competitive teams program at Texas A&M University is rich in tradition, attracting students from across the nation. The program can be traced to the early 1900s with the first Texas A&M University Livestock Judging Team, and has achieved more than 30 national championships.